Even with all of the jumbled pool sessions and practices lost to reasons beyond its control, Garner found a way to do just what it wanted to do this high school swimming season: have things end in the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference just like they ended a year ago.
The Trojans got their wish Friday night, sweeping the league championships for a second consecutive year, riding a massive by GNRC standards 50-plus swimmer roster to matching wins over rival Clayton.
Garner’s boys team finished with 548.5 points for its third straight conference crown with Clayton a distant second at 393. The Trojan girls hit on 577 points to win by 103 over the Comets, even though Clayton girls swimmers won eight events.
“I tried to get the kids to focus on just doing what they can control tonight, swimming their events as well as they could and the wins would come if we did that,” said veteran Garner coach Tad Berube. “There were a lot of things out of our control that cost us practice time through the season, but they all swam hard and put up their fastest times of the season tonight.”
Rolesville finished third in both boys and girls, with Knightdale fourth among girls and West Johnston fifth. On the boys side, Knightdale was fourth as well with Harnett Central fifth.
The Trojans had 19 top-five finishes and a slew of points scorers (the top 16 finishers in each event earned their team points) on the girls side to overcome Clayton’s eight-pack of wins.
Garner’s Carrington Clack won the 100-yard freestyle in 57.7 seconds and anchored the Trojans’ winning 400 free relay team in 4:03.5. Peyton Leichter, Ashley Little and Hailey Phillips joined Clack on the winning unit.
The Martin sisters, Naval Academy swimming recruit Dominique Quintero and Katie Simpson powered the Clayton domination. Quintero won the 50 free (25.13) and the breaststroke (1:09.08), posting her best times of the season in both events.
Cara Martin, a junior who is drawing recruiting interest from ACC schools, claimed wins in the 200 (1:59.56) and 500 (5:31.15) frees. Freshman Reagan Martin won the individual medley at 2:27.33 and the butterfly in 1:04.19.
Simpson had a solo win in the backstroke (1:09.7) and swam with the Martins and Quintero to a 200 medley relay victory (1:58.21).
Rolesville’s 200 free relay team won the league title there in 1:57.09.
Brenna Hardy took second for Knightdale in the individual medley.
West Johnston’s Julianna Lee was the runner-up in the 50 free.
The girls win is Garner’s second straight in the conference and the boys is their third consecutive.
“It’s really amazing how this year and last year lined up to end up as almost carbon copies,” Berbue said. “The boys went unbeaten in the regular season and won the conference meet, while the girls’ only loss coming into the conference meet was a very competitive, close meet against Clayton, late in the season, just like last year.”
Garner used both depth and superior talent to win the boys meet. The Trojans won all three relays and picked up four individual victories.
Noel Buitrago and Zack Leischner were both unbeaten on the night for Garner. Buitrago won the individual medley (2:06.65) and breaststroke (1:05.9) individually and swimming on Garner’s winning medley relay and 400 free relays.
Leischner was on the 200 free and medley relay teams and took the 200 (1:53.57) and 100 (51.29) frees individually.
Andrew Green swam on all three Garner winning relays, while Braydon Miley was on the medley and 400 free relays. Scott Barbeau was in on the 200 and 400 free wins. Zak Stewart had one of the legs on the 200 free relay win.
Clayton, West Johnston, East Wake and Rolesville all had one individual champion each.
Cole Carlson of West was the fastest man in the pool, taking the 50 free in 23.92 seconds, matching his personal best time this year exactly in the win.
Ryan Worley of East Wake won the butterfly (53.53), Clayton’s Walter Karstens took the 100 back (1:01.24) and Hunter Young of Rolesville endured to win the 500 (5:25.89).
GNRC 4A Swimming Championships Team Scores
Boys: Garner 548.5, Clayton 393, Rolesville 352.5, Knighdale 278, Harnett Central 209, West Johnston 182, Southeast Raleigh 56, East Wake 37
Girls: Garner 577, Clayton 474, Rolesville 280.5, Knightdale 275.5, West Johnston 215, Harnett Central 169, Southeast Raleigh 76