For the majority of the afternoon, it appeared that The O’Neal School out of Southern Pines was going to dominate all aspects of the Eastern Plains Independent 2A conference championships, but late victories on the boys’ side from Grace Christian Raleigh brought a balance to the final standings.
Collectively, the O’Neal boys and girls took first place in 12 of the 22 total events. The girls finished with 228 points, 47 points higher than second-place St. David’s and 61 points higher than third-place Grace Christian.
“They were quite prepared, they’ve been training hard all season and this is for some of them their last meet,” O’Neal coach Susanne Cooper said. “They knew what they had to do today and they did it.”
Along with two relay teams, Elizabeth Henry, Hannah Burns and Fiona Duffy earned six combined first place finished in individual events.
Three different teams held leads in the boys standings with the first being O’Neal, which led until Cary Christian overtook it 109-103.
Cary Christian held that lead until the the final three events, when Grace Christian took first place in the 400-yard freestyle relay, Christian Lauffer and Eric Jordan took first and third in the 100-yard backstroke and Ryan Wahlers and Landon Lauffer took second and third in the 100-yard breaststroke behind Trinity Academy Raleigh’s Riley Voth (1:04.44) to finish with 201 points.
It was just three points higher than Cary Christian and 10 points higher than O’Neal.
St. David’s, which finished second for girls and fourth for boys, finished first in four events. Its girls 200 medley team of Sarah Spencer Ball, Madeline Ross, Annie Mears and Mary Jeanne Hipp (2:02.89) shaved seven seconds of its seed time, by far the most of any relay team. Grace Christian won three, Cary Christian won two and Trinity Academy won one.
Cary Christian’s C.J. Van Vooren set personal records in his first place finishes in the 200-yard IM (2:02.92) and the 100-yard freestyle (48.98), nearly leading his team to a miraculous comeback win.
“The motivation was to swim for the team and not yourself,” Van Vooren said. “This selflessness makes me want to swim faster”
Having one of the smallest teams at the meet with only 14 members – two of them are sixth graders – Trinity Academy finished at the bottom of the boys and girls standings. Senior Abrianna Zorzi – who finished tenth in the 100-yard and 50-yard freestyle, the highest of any Trinity girls event with at least 30 participants – has seen growth individually and as a program over her four years.
Zorzi overcame some unique adversity to set a personal record in her final conference meet, as well.
“For the first two races, I dove in and my goggles broke right in half, it was crazy. For the 100-yard freestyle I expected those to break in half, too, but they stayed on and I set a personal best (1:08.42) by one-and-a-half seconds,” Zorzi said. “This is the biggest team we’ve had, we’ve grown so much and we’ve become a big family over here at Trinity. Everyone has been improving their times.”
1. Grace Christian Raleigh: 201
2. Cary Christian: 198
3. The O’Neal School: 191
4. St. David’s: 127
5. Trinity Academy Raleigh: 76
1. The O’Neal School: 228
2. St. David’s: 181
3. Grace Christian Raleigh: 167
4. Cary Christian: 154
5. Trinity Academy Raleigh: 68