Green Hope kept its streaks alive in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 4A East regional championship.
On Friday, the boys finished off their third straight regional title by outdistancing conference rival and runner-up Cary 365 to 272. The girls were well ahead of second-place Panther Creek, another Southwest Wake Athletic Conference team, 326.5 to 253 for their third straight regional.
The 4A East had a strong SWAC flavor as the league accounted for 19 of 24 wins.
“Especially after losing the kids that we lost last year, it’s exciting to come back and win (three) regional titles in a row. Considering who we swam against and how good our region is, I think it really puts us in a good spot going into states,” senior Alex Carson said. “We’re probably in the strongest region and conference. And to put up the swims today and the scores that we did, I think it’s really going to be beneficial to us going into states.”
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In the state championships next week, the Falcons’ girls have a tall order going against 4A West powerhouses Charlotte Catholic and Cornelius Hough. The boys will have eyes set on winning a third straight state title.
“We had a lot of best times for the season, best times overall, so they want it,” Falcons coach Julia Herman said. “They know where they have to get. They’ll be looking for that heat sheet when it comes out and try to figure out who they’ll swim against. They try to stay ahead of the game.”
The top eight in each boys and girls event advanced to the 4A championships, which also will be held at Cary’s Triangle Aquatic Center next Saturday. The diving finals are Friday at the Pullen Aquatic Center in Raleigh.
Carson leads Falcons
Green Hope was led by Carson, an LSU recruit. He won the 100 freestyle (46.68) and 50 freestyle (21.39) and partnered with Chris Daniels, Seth Maslowski and Henry Hollinshead to take the 200 freestyle relay (1:27.20).
Meanwhile, Cary’s Justin Ress proved why the N.C. State recruit is ranked the top swimmer in the state.
Ress claimed the 200 IM (1:52.26), the 500 freestyle (4:35.51), helped fellow Imps Tosh Kawaguchi, Richard McIntyre and Chase Millar win the 200 medley relay (1:36.34) then later anchored the 400 freestyle relay (3:09.62) with the same teammates.
“States is a lot less about depth, and it’d be really cool to have a shot at winning or getting top three or so,” Ress said, adding he would like to go out next week “the same way as the past two weeks. Just win everything.”
Sophomore Bradley Downs, out of D.H. Conley in Greenville, was a surprise double winner, taking the 200 freestyle out of lane one (1:42.95) by almost three seconds and also claiming the 100 butterfly (51.28).
Athens Drive’s Tyler Silver won the 100 backstroke (50.83) while Apex’s Brayden Lauffer won the 100 breaststroke (58.68).
Panther Creek’s Connor Callahan won the diving championships earlier in the day.
Depth wins for girls
It was an unusual win for Green Hope’s girls as it came with just a single individual victory. Sophomore Kate Moore won the 100 backstroke (57.27).
“The ladies have seen the heat sheet, they know who they’re competing against and ultimately it’s (me) telling them ‘We can do this’, ” Herman said. “You may not make it to states but you can help the team out.”
Middle Creek had the most individual wins of any girls team with three. The Mustangs’ Julia Poole took the 200 IM (2:04.15) and the 100 breaststroke (1:04.79) while junior Sarah Giamber won the 500 freestyle (4:57.70).
Middle Creek’s Poole, Giamber, Emily Stringfellow and Charlotte Watts also won the 400 freestyle relay (3:33.72).
“It’s a great accomplishment, not only for me but the team as well because that’s probably the best we’ve ever done as a team,” said Poole, who was a state runner-up in the 200 IM last year. “My goal is to win 200 IM and I’m not sure about breaststroke, but hopefully top three.”
Holly Springs also had multiple winners with freshman Ana Pozder (1:52.87) taking the 200 freestyle and Kelsey Lawton (51.68) winning the 100 freestyle.
Millbrook freshman Sophia Clayton-Luce (23.90) upset the 50 freestyle competitors from lane six (23.90) and helped win the 200 medley relay (1:49.05) along with Jordan Kohut, Elizabeth Underkoffler and Kayla Hunter.
Leesville Road’s 200 freestyle relay (1:38.09) team of Lauren Frank, Ashley Brodnick, Abigail Toburen and Grace Countie claimed top honors.
Panther Creek’s Haley Bishop won the 100 butterfly (57.48) while teammate Kristen Hayden claimed the 1-meter diving title in the morning at Pullen Aquatic Center.
Swim-off: A rare swim-off was needed after Green Hope’s Christiana Cornea tied for eighth with Conley’s Svea Torres in the 50 freestyle. Cornea won by .04 seconds to earn a spot in the 4A championships.