If it weren’t for Cardinal Gibbons, Chapel Hill High School would have no trouble considering itself the hands-down favorite to repeat as the state 3A champion in boys swimming.
More than half of Chapel Hill’s 61 varsity swimmers are members of year-round swim clubs. The thing is, plenty of swimmers from Cardinal Gibbons and last year’s girls’ champion, Marvin Ridge High in Waxhaw, compete year-round as well.
“All three schools are different from most; we have a lot of year-round swimmers,” said Chapel Hill third-year coach Steve Riegler.
“Each of us graduated some good swimmers, and we’re missing some depth in certain events, so it is going to be interesting but we’re going to have a really good chance to repeat – from conference all the way through states.”
Chapel Hill won only one boys event at last year’s N.C. High School Athletics Association 3A state meet in Cary – the climactic 400 freestyle relay – and still won the title by 30 points over four-time champion Cardinal Gibbons, with Marvin Ridge third. On the girls’ side, Chapel Hill finished second and Cardinal Gibbons third behind Marvin Ridge.
“Winning states without winning any individual events, other than the last relay, just speaks to the depth of the team,” Riegler said.
Three of the four swimmers who won the final boys relay – C.J. Eron, Emery Hartwell and Jake Pudik – are back for Chapel Hill as leaders in a deep talent pool.
Eron (50 free), Pudik (50, 100 free) and Patrick O’Donnell (butterfly, backstroke) each scored in championship heats in last year’s state meet. Harwell, Pudik and O’Donnell, now seniors, will serve as 2014 team captains.
“In my mind we only have a few events where I am still looking for someone to fill a need; we are just that deep,” Riegler said. “We have a lot of kids who could swim two, three, four or five events and score at a high level.”
In addition to having back juniors like Jacob Werden (200 IM, 500 free) and Takoda Ren (100 free, 100 breaststroke), Riegler says a large, talented freshman class – led by N.C. Aquatic Club teammates Beau Braeur, Thomas Bretzmann and Jordan Ren (Takoda’s brother) will have an impact.
“They may not be the top one or two swimmers in any event, but they can be third or fourth. Their times will help us score points,” Riegler said.
One of the few places Chapel Hill had a need was in diving. Daniel Margolis, who scored well in the 2013 regionals, is back, but Riegler wanted as least two Chapel Hill entrants, so he convinced swimmer Tommy Billman to double as a diver.
“It’s an event that doesn’t draw a lot of kids, but it means points,” Riegler said.
Teams to watch
Swimmers to watch