By David Justice
CARY -- It didn't come easily, but once again a state championship trophy for swimming and diving will be worked into the trophy case at Cardinal Gibbons.
Friday night the Crusaders boys won their seventh straight N.C. High School Athletic Association title, but it never gets old to coach Jonah Turner and his troops
During the afternoon boys preliminaries the Crusaders had a couple of disqualifications and Charlotte Catholic, whose girls won their 12th straight championship, were throwing a stronger challenge than usual on the boys side.
That's when Turner challenged his squad and got the championship response, especially from a pair of seniors, Bailey Maloney and Kai Wombacher.
"We knew we lost points earlier in the day and then Catholic beat us in the first relay of the finals," Turner said. "From that point we had to get every point possible and win the other two relays.
“In the past it took 250 points to win the boys title, but this year, with Catholic stronger, we needed 300."
When Gibbons captured the final event, the 400-yard free relay, and Catholic finished fourth, the Crusaders had corralled 312 points to the Cougars' 283.
.Chapel Hill took third place in both the boys and girls competition
Maloney, the meet's Most Outstanding Performer, won the 50 free and 100 free and swam on the winning 200-free and 400-free relays. Robbie Mohney, Andy Lui, and Wombacker joined Maloney on the 200 relay which set a state 3-A record.
.The 400-relay team consisted of Emmett Williams, Noah Cairns, Wombacher, and Maloney.
Wombacher won the 200-free and finished second in the 500-free.
Catholic won all the girls swimming events except for one, coasting to the girls title with 469 points to Marvin Ridge's 258 and Chapel Hill’s 228.
Chapel Hill swimmers posted several high finishes, starting with a second in the opening 200-Medley Relay.
Sophomore Anabelle Durham took a fourth in the 200-free and a third in the 100-back. Freshman Claire DeSelm finished third in both the 200-IM and 100-butterfly. Junior Kaitlin Jones took third in the 100-breaststroke and the 400-free relay grabbed another second.
"Claire was probably our MVP of the meet, getting two thirds and she was on the two relays that finished second," Chapel Hill coach Steve Riegler said. "I'm proud of the team. My goal was to be top three on both sides. And that's against some pretty good competition."
The title was the end of Charlotte Catholic's domination at the 3-A level because the Cougars are moving up to 4-A next year.
"The girls were determined to make their mark since this was their last year in 3-A and they did," Catholic coach Brian Gross said. "Our boys had a shot but Cardinal Gibbons is a great team. We swim them in the middle of the year and it's a great rivalry."
Cougars sophomore Nora McCullagh was named the girls Most Outstanding Performer. She won the 50-free and set the state record winning the 100-backstroke. She also swam on two relays that set state records.