Leesville Road’s girls and Enloe’s boys repeated as Cap-8 Conference swimming champions, but their paths to defending their titles were at opposite ends of the pool on Saturday afternoon at the Triangle Aquatic Center.
Leesville Road girls, led by nationally ranked double winners Grace Countie and Ashley McCauley atop team depth, routed the field with 661 points to the runner-up total of 387 posted by Enloe’s girls.
But the boys race was back and forth with four teams swapping places. Two-team races often develop, but a four-team race to the finish separated by 53 points is rare. Enloe won with 423 points followed by Sanderson (384.5), Millbrook (372.5) and Broughton (367).
Entering the third to last event, the 100 backstroke, Enloe was clinging to a seven-point lead. Eagles sophomore Noah Hensley recorded a win worth 20 team points and teammate Connor Chignell was fifth for another 14 points to bump the lead to 32 points.
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“I knew it was going was going to be a tough race against Thomas (Millbrook’s Thomas Wright, who was second) and Jaden (Sanderson’s Jaden Kring, who was third),” Hensley said. “But I had a lot of team support. I just tried to do what I do.”
Another Enloe victory by senior Wallace Watkins in the second to last race, the 100 breaststroke, with a time of 1:00.45, provided a smaller but strong 28.5-point cushion entering the final event, the 400 free relay.
Hensley anchored a fourth-place relay finish worth 30 points to clinch the title. Chignell joined him along with Ryan Li and Bryson Johnson with a time of 3:20.80 that bettered their No. 4 seed time.
“There was a lot of pressure to win last year, but this year there was more pressure,” said Hensley, Enloe’s only individual winner. “Last year it was something new. I’m really proud of my team’s effort.”
Sanderson stayed in the race with a double from sophomore Stephen Lucht in the 200 individual medley (1:54.84) and 100 butterfly (51.81).
Broughton stayed in the race with a double from senior Jack Messinger in the 50 free (21.47) and 100 free (47.47) and a win in diving from Holt Gray (495.55). It was the second straight year Messenger doubled.
Other boys winners were Leesville Road senior Jacob Phillips in the 200 free (1:44.04) and Millbrook junior Josh Legge in the 500 free (4:42.36).
The girls title was the fourth straight for Leesville Road, but Countie, a junior, and McCauley, a sophomore, say they enjoy the competition despite their lofty national credentials and the team’s status as a heavy favorite.
“We don’t take it for granted the effort we put forth,” Countie said. “It’s a great team environment. Everyone supports each other.”
Countie won the 50 free in 23.68 and the 100 backstroke in 55.74. She won the 50 free by .53, but that’s cruising speed for her. She ranks third in the nation in USA Swimming at 22.54 from a meet in December. She set the state record of 22.75 in last year’s N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A meet.
McCauley won the 200 IM in 2:06.92 and the 100 breast in 1:04.17. Another Leesville win was recorded in diving by Elizabeth Gamble with 307.60 points.
Sanderson sophomore Kenna Haney recorded the meet’s third double in the 200 free (1:51.26) and the 500 free (5:02.74).
In other events, Enloe junior Lilly Morrell won the 100 butterfly (1:00.21) and Millbrook’s Adrianna Cera the 100 free (53.29).
1. Leesville Road 661.5
2. Enloe 387
3. Broughton 277
4. Sanderson 270
5. Millbrook 246.5
6. Heritage 221
7. Wakefield 144
8. Wake Forest 64
1. Enloe 423
2. Sanderson 384.5
3. Millbrook 372.5
4. Broughton 367
5. Wakefield 250
6. Leesville Road 238
7. Heritage 222
8. Wake Forest 56