Spartans Swim into History at the SPC Championships

St. Stephen’s made a big splash at the 2024 Winter Southwest Preparatory Conference Championships. The Swimming and Diving team took second place overall and broke two SPC records.

The boys 200 medley relay team included Austin Ross ’26, Levi Skaistis ’26, Tristan McCain ’26 and Watt Wilkinson ’25. The team finished first with a time of 1:34.21 and broke both the St. Stephen’s record and the SPC record of 1:35.46, which was set by St. Mark’s School of Texas in 2016. 

"The energy throughout the race was tense up until the last few seconds when we saw the time on the board and the one next to it," said Ross. "After the race, it was exhilarating – especially with the honor of representing my school as well as breaking the SPC record. My teammates are all very hard-working and supportive of each other. They all push me to be and do my best in the pool."

Spartan diver Rhett Smerklo ’27 shattered the SPC record in the 1-meter springboard with a score of 467.15. The previous record of 431.55 was set in 2018 by St. Stephen’s alumnus Judson “Jud”  Kyle ’18. We caught up with Jud via Zoom a couple of days before his record was on the line. He was thrilled to hear it could be broken by a fellow Spartan.

“Honestly, I hope [Rhett] beats it,” said Kyle. “That would be super cool if he beat it and I can pass the torch onto the next generation.”

Smerklo’s Spanish instructor, Ann Befroy, once a diver at Dartmouth College coached him through the meet. Smerklo performed a total of 11 dives going in five different directions: twister, back, front reverse and inward. Befroy said Smerklo’s best dive of the day was his inward dive pike, which earned two nines, two eights and an eight-point-five on a 10 point scale. That dive, along with his “incredibly consistent” performance executing the first eight dives, put Rhett in first place at the end of the diving preliminaries – but he was only ahead by less than two points. Rhett rose to the challenge.

“In the finals – the final three dives of the competition – Rhett was outstanding,” said Befroy. “Not only did he save his highest degree of difficulty dives for last, but he performed them beautifully earning sevens and eights across the board. By the time the meet concluded, Rhett had extended his lead to more than 30 points ahead of the second place finishers. It was a terrific event to watch.”

Smerklo has had an incredible start as a freshman. In his season’s first meet in January, he broke the SPC South Zone record. 

His journey began long before in elementary school. The 15-year-old started taking diving lessons at the University of Texas Swimming Center when he was a first-grader. His family moved to Wyoming for five years, and there weren’t any opportunities to dive. His family returned to Austin when Smerklo was in the seventh-grade, and that’s when he returned to the diving board. 

“I just love the flipping,” said Smerklo. “And it’s something I can do six days a week.”

Smerklo says he was excited about the idea of breaking a record at SPC, but had no idea how many points he would need to do it. Smerklo said he just wanted to do his best, have fun and improve with each dive. 

Smerklo hopes to dive in college, but is trying to stay focused on the present. He just wants to keep getting better with each practice and competition.

Click here for a full Spartan recap of the Winter SPC Championships.
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