Local high school swimmers don’t approach “Senior Night” with quite the enthusiasm that marks the final home games for many football and basketball players.
For swimmers, Senior Night is just the gateway to the post-season.
“For a lot of our swimmers, the conference meet will be the end of their high school career,” Chapel Hill coach Steve Riegler said. “For those that don’t go on to the regionals, that will be their last meet.”
Chapel Hill decisively defeated Cedar Ridge and Northwood in a final regular-season meet Wednesday at Homestead Aquatic Center. One night later, East Chapel Hill similarly swamped Northern Durham in the teams’ last dual meet.
Chapel Hill competes Tuesday in the Big Eight Championships at the Triangle Aquatic Center in Cary. East Chapel Hill hosts the PAC-6 championships Tuesday in Koury Natatorium.
“For us, conference is a time when we can still get some kids to qualify for regionals,” Cedar Ridge coach Amy Wilson said.
Wilson said that trying to defeat state powers like Chapel Hill and Cardinal Gibbons head-to-head in the Big Eight championships takes second place to just getting as many swimmers as possible to advance to the next level.
“Competing against Chapel Hill and Gibbons is a long shot,” Wilson said. “Our focus is on individual goals and seeing growth in our individual swimmers. We’re all about celebrating that success at this time of the year.”
Riegler, whose team has as many underclassmen as senior who can score points, was nonetheless pleased to see his most experienced team members enjoy their last meet at Homestead.
“They lead by example,” he said. “We can always count on them to get everyone going, even when the coaches are off doing something else before the meet.”
Chapel Hill’s senior co-captains all recorded at least one first place Wednesday. Jake Pudik (100 butterfly, 100 breaststroke) was a double-winner for Chapel Hill, while Patrick O’Donnell won the 200 freestyle and Emery Harwell won the 100 backstroke.
Chapel Hill senior David Batson had one of his best meets on record by winning the 50 and 100 free, and leading off the victorious 200 medley and 200 free relays.
Harwell, O’Donnell and fellow senior Thomas Billman followed Batson in the winning 200 medley relay, while seniors Sam Herbert, O’Donnell and Harwell joined in the 200 free relay win.
Hebert also led off the winning 400 free relay which included sophomore Nick Pan, junior C.J. Eron and Pudik.
Eron won the 500 freestyle and sophomore Jacob Werden won the 200 individual medley as part of Chapel Hill’s sweep of first places in all the boys’ individual events.
For the CHHS girls, senior co-captain Annabelle Durham led off the winning 400 free relay and won the 100 butterfly, followed in second by classmate Rebecca Churchill in the butterfy.
Junior Claire DeSelm won the 100 breaststroke and the 50 free and anchored two winning relays — the 200 free (with ninth-grader Katherine Acierno, sophomore Rose Shain and senior co-captain Sophie Pudik) and the 400 free (with Durham, sophomore Jaylyn Forrest and Acierno).
Sophomore Uma Knaven won the 200 free for Chapel Hill.
Northwood placed second in the meet, thanks to double-winner Sarah Shepherd (200 individual medley, 100 back) and Elizabeth Conte (100 free).
East seniors finish strong against Northern
East Chapel Hill’s seniors led the way in the Wildcats’ dominating wins Thursday at Homestead over Northern Durham. Michael Wohl (200 IM, 100 butterfly) and Bijan Zakerin (500 free, 100 breaststroke) were both double-winners as the male Wildcats won 212-39, and Morgan Smith (200 free,100 free) led the way in the females’ 220-51 victory.
Underclassmen had a big impact for East. Sophomore Daniel Wohl (boys’ 200 and 100 free) and sophomore Sophie Perez (100 fly, 100 back) won twice individually.
East went 1-2-3-4 in the girls’ 200 free, with Morgan leading sophomores Annie Huang, Rebecca Zuo and ninth-grader Jennifer Nelson in order to the wall.
Seniors Chelsea Yu and CeCe Marzinsky finished 1-2 in the girls’ 50 freestyle, with sophomore Allison Lai and senior Elizabeh Jensen coming in 3-4 in an East sweep.
Marzinsky also won the 500 freestyle, with ninth-grader Olivia Kaye in second.
Other winners for East included sophomores Anne Whitsel (girls 200 IM) and Conrad Weiden (500 free), freshman Christopher Chao (100 back) and Huang (100 breaststroke).
East Chapel Hill swept all the boys' and girls' relays, with Chao, junior James Gildard, freshman Connor Sept, sophomore Karlton Tate, Zakerin and the Wohls all swimming on at least winning relay. Huang, Jensen, Lai, Marzinsky, Perez, Smith, Whitsel and Yu all swam on at least one winning relay for East's girls.