Olivia Ontjes is part of a Raleigh Charter senior class that has finished each season of its high school career holding a state championship girls swimming plaque. This year, the Phoenix are seeking their fifth consecutive N.C. High School Athletic Association 1A/2A state championship.
Ontjes, a University of Southern California signee who last year set classification records in the 200 IM and 100 breaststroke with all-America times of 2 minutes, 2.63 seconds and 1:02.73, respectively, said the team is taking more personal approach to the season.
“That’d be pretty cool to finish out my high school career having won four championships,” Ontjes said. “It’d be nice to set some new conference records and I would love to win my individual events, but this year for me is my last year with my team, so I want to make sure everyone can do really well and just enjoy the season.”
That statement sums up both Raleigh Charter’s family atmosphere and Ontjes’ attitude as a teammate and leader, Phoenix coach Matt Mosher said.
This year’s team returns 17 swimmers and boasts the most upperclassmen the program has ever had.
“We have quite a few seniors and quite a few juniors, and for them it’s a culmination of four years of really hard work,” Mosher said. “Especially our seniors have done a really good job of building a team and building an environment of teamwork and hard work and commitment to one another and the team, which has really created a culture of success.”
But the Phoenix don’t take that success for granted. Anything can happen throughout a long season, and at this point they have yet to see what other programs will bring to the competition this year.
Teams to watch
Apex: The Cougars were fourth in 4A and are expected to be led by Claire Williams, who was fourth in the 100 breaststroke (1:04.5) and by juniors Ashlyn Butkowski and Hannah Day, who were fourth and fifth in the 500 free.
Cardinal Gibbons: The Crusaders were second in 3A and should challenge Chapel Hill again. Junior Haley Allen, sophomore Olivia Allen, junior Emily Dykstra and junior Sophia Lindem were runner-up in the 200 medley relay (1:50.88). Senior Sammy Stone joined Haley Allen, Lindem and Dystra were runner-up in the 200 free relay (1:40.47). Dystra was second in the 200 free (1:52.12) and Haley Allen was third in the 200 butterfly (58.08).
Chapel Hill: The Tigers held off Gibbons for the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A title (366.5 to 291.5) thanks to junior Claire DeSelm and senior Anabelle Durham. Deselm was NCHSAA 3A MVP and posted all-America times while winning the 200 IM (2:02.59) and 100 butterfly (54.77). Durham won the 100 free (53.47) and 100 back (57.65). DeSelm and Durham were joined on the runner-up 400 free relay by senior Sophie Pudik and sophomore Jaylyn Forrest.
Green Hope: The Falcons were third in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A championships. The 200-yard free relay, which was third, returns intact with senior Christiana Cornea, sophomore Samantha Medlin, senior Emnily Etgen and junior Brooke Rubendall. The third place 400 free relay returns Cornea, Jenny Nusbarum and Rubendall.
Raleigh Charter: The Phoenix swam away with the NCHSAA 1A/2A title thanks to Olivia Ontjes, who set classification records in the 200 IM and 100 breaststroke (with all-America times of 2:02.63 and 1:02.73). Senior Tara Martin was runner-up in the 50 free (24.02) and 100 butterfly (57.40). Both swam on the winning 200 free relay with senior Paige Whalen and sophomore Lily Whalen. The winning 400 free relay returns Martin, Whalen and Ontjes.
Ravenscroft: The Ravens were barely challenged in the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 3A championship, swamping second-place Charlotte Latin, 309.5 to 257. Junior Chloe Mikles won the 50 free (24.38) and 100 free (52.53). Sophomore Madeline High won the 100 butterfly (57.73) and was second in the 100 backstroke (59.58). Mikles, High and freshman Kaitlin Ramsden return to the winning 400 free relay. Freshman Grace Bergsrom and Mikles are back on the winning 200 free relay.
Other swimmers to watch
Haley Bishop, Sr., Panther Creek: Was third in the 4A 100 butterfly (55.41) and fourth in the 50 freestyle (23.85).
Michaela Carter, Sr., Corinth Holders: Won the NCHSAA 3A 50 freestyle (24.90).
Becca Churchill, Sr., Cedar Ridge: Won the 3A 100 breaststroke (1:06.32).
Mary Jeanne Hipp, Soph., St. David’s: Won the NCISAA 500 freestyle.
Christine Kerr, Sr., Cary: Third in the 4A 100 freestyle (51.49) and fifth in the 50 freestyle (23.94).
Julia Poole, Soph., Middle Creek: Second in the 200 IM (2:03.7)
Bailey Revels, Sr., Northwood: N.C. State recruit was fourth in 3A diving.