Realignment might be the only factor that can stop Corinth Holders’ dominance of the Two Rivers 3A Conference swim scene.
In the league’s third year, the Pirates have never lost a team boys or girls conference meet — a streak that continued Thursday with a dominant performance in the Two Rivers pool opener at the Smithfield Recreation and Aquatics Center.
Corinth Holders piled up 382 points to control the boys standings and was followed by Cleveland (238), Smithfield-Selma (209), South Johnston (188), Triton (112) and Western Harnett (72). Had it not been for the heroics of Cleveland’s Langston Brothers — Dalton and Mitchell — the Pirates would have taken first place in every event.
Mitchell Langston was the winner in the 200 IM (2:04.58) and 100 backstroke (55.87), while Dalton Langston exceeded his seed time by almost seven seconds in claiming the 200 freestyle in surprise fashion at 1:52.97.
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“I was definitely happy with what Dalton did in the 200 free,” said Cleveland coach Amy Pierce-Reas. “That was the fastest I have ever seen him swim. (The Langstons) are year-round swimmers, and you can see the difference that makes.”
Beyond the Langstons, the rest of the boys meet belonged to Corinth Holders, including firsts in the 100 breaststroke and 100 butterfly from senior Connor Blandford — the defending Class 3A state champion in the 200 IM.
Blandford, a University of Kentucky signee, is the son of Maureen Blandford, the only coach the Corinth Holders program has known in its six years of existence.
During Maureen Blandford’s first season with the Pirates, the boys roster consisted of just three athletes. Corinth Holders was unable to win the Northern Carolina 2A Conference crown that campaign, but hasn’t lost a league title since.
A symbolic display of how far the Pirates have come occurred in the boys 100 freestyle on Thursday as three Corinth Holders standouts — Bryce Sherrill, Eric Svadeba and Chris Carter — swam almost in orchestrated unison for four laps. The trio finished just .82 of a second apart, with Sherrill finishing in the No. 1 position at 53.25.
“I’ve worked with a lot of these kids at Riverwood (Swim Club) in the summer, and it has just gone from there,” Maureen Blandford said. “One thing about swimming – it is both an individual and a team sport. You can see the improvement you make. It’s important for kids to see when their times go down. That is what motivates you to work harder in practice.”
The Pirates’ other individual boys winners were Svadeba (50 freestyle at 24.18) and Brian Brees (5:56.92 in the 500 free). Corinth Holders also racked up firsts in the 200 IM, 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle relays.
Corinth Holders’ girls swept every event to finish with 375 points. Rounding out the girls standings were Cleveland (276), Smithfield-Selma (197), South Johnston (137), Triton (112) and Western Harnett (100).
The Two Rivers received a glimpse of Corinth’s newest star as freshman Callie Blandford (Connor’s younger sister) rolled to victories in the 100 butterfly and the 500 free. Callie Blandford’s time of 6:01.69 in the 500 free was over 47 seconds ahead of runner-up and teammate Peyton Tyler.
“Callie is the smallest person on our team, but she will get there,” Maureen Blandford said. “It’s a challenge for her, but she has swam with a lot of these girls for the last five years. I don’t think the transition will be all that bad for her.”
Corinth Holders’ Stephanie Grandin, who has signed with the University of Wyoming, earned first-place efforts in the 100 breaststroke (1:10.61) and 200 IM (2:15.65). The Pirates’ other dual winner was Peyton Whitaker in the 200 freestyle (2:02.72) and the 100 freestyle (56.74).
Also claiming top spots for the Pirates were Paige Bauer (50 freestyle at 26.75) and Rachel Strickland (100 backstroke at 59.46), in addition to Corinth Holders’ relays in the 200 IM, 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle.
The other Two Rivers schools can take solace in the fact that Corinth Holders is slated to be moved up to the 4A level for the next N.C. High School Athletic Association realignment following the 2016-17 school calendar year.