Throughout the entirety of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A eastern regionals, there was never a clear frontrunner in either the girls nor boys standings.
The Apex girls overcame a 32-point deficit to Leesville Road, and the boys side featured five lead changes before Green Hope pulled away from Millbrook and Apex.
Leesville Road’s Anna Carrigan, Ashley McCauley, Lauren Frank and Grace Countie won the first event of the morning, narrowly edging Green Hope by a margin of only .07 seconds in the 200-yard medley relay.
From there, the Falcons dominated, especially in the freestyle competitions.
Green Hope won the 400-yard freestyle relay (3:30.24) and 200-yard freestyle relay (1:37.81), and Samantha Medlin won the 100-yard freestyle (52.37).
Rebecca Ssengonzi and Middle Creek’s Charlotte Watts tied for first in the 100-yard butterfly at 56.99.
Despite only one event victory – Ana Pozder’s 500-yard freestyle (4:58.85) – Apex’s depth shined as the Cougars surpassed the Pride for first place.
“We (knew) ... it would be close here at regionals, not even the entire team could come with us today but the girls knew what they had to do, knew they had to swim faster than they did last week to win it here today,” Apex coach Kevin Maksinchuck said. “We didn’t have really fast meets throughout the season, but in our conference meet we really saw what we were capable of throughout the season.”
Middle Creek’s Julia Pool won the 100-yard breastroke (1:04.86) and the 200-yard IM (2:04.17).
Apex’s Maya Aizhulova won the girls diving title with a 352.95 score.
Millbrook’s quartet of Ryan Donnelly, Chase Binion, Davis Payne and Sammy Brinkley opened up the morning by breaking their seed time by two seconds, winning the 200-yard medley (1:35.9) to take an early lead.
Just like its girls team, the Apex boys’ depth came into play as the Cougars swam ahead of the Wildcats about halfway through the meet (210-198.5) despite no first place finishes.
Millbrook regained the lead, taking a 226.5-226 advantage until Green Hope broke through, taking a 270.5-239.5 lead that would stand.
Green Hope’s 200-yard freestyle relay (1:27.88) team of Michael Ivy, Mitch Curlee, Jethro Ssengonzi and Henry Hollinshead winning first place was crucial in insuring first place.
“We showed our resilience. We wanted to rebound especially after losing conference, we wanted to come out and give it our best,” said the Falcons’ senior captain, Jethro Ssengonzi. “This gives us a lot of confidence; we know what we have to do. We know our relay orders, our best events and we’re experienced. We’re excited heading into states.”
The top of Athens Drive’s lineup showed off its versatility as Zach Brown and Tyler Silver combined for four finishes in either first or second place in the 100-yard backstroke, 100-yard butterfly and 200-yard IM.
Millbrook’s Davis Payne (4:40.66) and Josh Legge (4:42.22) finished first and second in the 500-yard freestyle.
Cary’s Will Atkinson won the 50-yard freestyle (21.58), Broughton’s Jack Messenger (45.97) won the 100-yard freestyle and D.H. Conley’s Bradley Downs won the 200-yard freestyle.
Panther Creek’s Connor Callahan won the boys diving title with a score of 593.20.
Two N&O area schools finished in the top five of both the boys and girls standings at the 4A central regionals. On the boys side, Cardinal Gibbons and East Chapel Hill took second and fourth and on the girls side, Gibbons took first and East Chapel Hill took third. Jordan took 11th in both standings, and Riverside finished 13th in girls and 16th in boys.