High School Sports

Boys swimming preview: Chapel Hill relies on depth

Chapel Hill’s Patrick O'Donnell competes in the 100 yard butterfly, finishing first with a time of 54.60, during the Big Eight 3A Conference swimming championships on Friday, January 24, 2013.
Chapel Hill’s Patrick O'Donnell competes in the 100 yard butterfly, finishing first with a time of 54.60, during the Big Eight 3A Conference swimming championships on Friday, January 24, 2013. newsobserver.com

If it weren’t for Cardinal Gibbons, Chapel Hill High School would have no trouble considering itself the hands-down favorite to repeat as the state 3A champion in boys swimming.

More than half of Chapel Hill’s 61 varsity swimmers are members of year-round swim clubs. The thing is, plenty of swimmers from Cardinal Gibbons and last year’s girls’ champion, Marvin Ridge High in Waxhaw, compete year-round as well.

“All three schools are different from most; we have a lot of year-round swimmers,” said Chapel Hill third-year coach Steve Riegler.

“Each of us graduated some good swimmers, and we’re missing some depth in certain events, so it is going to be interesting but we’re going to have a really good chance to repeat – from conference all the way through states.”

Chapel Hill won only one boys event at last year’s N.C. High School Athletics Association 3A state meet in Cary – the climactic 400 freestyle relay – and still won the title by 30 points over four-time champion Cardinal Gibbons, with Marvin Ridge third. On the girls’ side, Chapel Hill finished second and Cardinal Gibbons third behind Marvin Ridge.

“Winning states without winning any individual events, other than the last relay, just speaks to the depth of the team,” Riegler said.

Three of the four swimmers who won the final boys relay – C.J. Eron, Emery Hartwell and Jake Pudik – are back for Chapel Hill as leaders in a deep talent pool.

Eron (50 free), Pudik (50, 100 free) and Patrick O’Donnell (butterfly, backstroke) each scored in championship heats in last year’s state meet. Harwell, Pudik and O’Donnell, now seniors, will serve as 2014 team captains.

“In my mind we only have a few events where I am still looking for someone to fill a need; we are just that deep,” Riegler said. “We have a lot of kids who could swim two, three, four or five events and score at a high level.”

In addition to having back juniors like Jacob Werden (200 IM, 500 free) and Takoda Ren (100 free, 100 breaststroke), Riegler says a large, talented freshman class – led by N.C. Aquatic Club teammates Beau Braeur, Thomas Bretzmann and Jordan Ren (Takoda’s brother) will have an impact.

“They may not be the top one or two swimmers in any event, but they can be third or fourth. Their times will help us score points,” Riegler said.

One of the few places Chapel Hill had a need was in diving. Daniel Margolis, who scored well in the 2013 regionals, is back, but Riegler wanted as least two Chapel Hill entrants, so he convinced swimmer Tommy Billman to double as a diver.

“It’s an event that doesn’t draw a lot of kids, but it means points,” Riegler said.

Teams to watch

Carrboro: The Jaguars were second in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1A/2A championship in 2014 led by meet MVP Will Macmillan, who won the 100 freestyle (46.35) and set the 200 individual medley class record (1:52.53). Tom Bilden, the 100 butterfly champ (51.94), also is back. Junior Simon Deshusses and senior Connor Murphy joined Bilden and Macmillan on the second-place 400 free relay.

East Chapel Hill: The Wildcats finished third in 4A (178 points). Michael Wohl was third in the 100 free (46.14).

Cardinal Gibbons: Senior Noah Cairns was the NCHSAA 3A MVP after winning the 200 free (1:43.77) and 500 free (4:33.91).

Cary Academy: NCISAA 3A runner-up; Michael Todd was third in 100 fly (52.68) and fourth in 500 free (4:58.17).

Chapel Hill: The Tigers topped second-place Cardinal Gibbons, 297-267 in the 3A championships. Senior Jake Pudik was third in the 50 freestyle (22.08), fourth in the 100 freestyle (49.06) and swam a leg in a first-place and a second-place relay. Patrick O’Donnell was third in the 100 fly (53.27) and fourth in the 100 breast (1:01.38). Junior Christopher Eron, senior Emery Harwell and Pudik are back from the winning 400 free relay and Eron, Pudik and O’Donnell swam on the second-place 200 free relay.

Green Hope: The Falcons claimed their second straight NCHSAA 4A championship, out-distancing Greenville Rose 248-203.5. Green Hope will have several new faces.

Millbrook: The Wildcats were sixth in 4A (119.5 points) after winning the Cap Eight 4A for the second straight time. Christopher Kohut was fourth in the 100 free (46.39) and sixth in the 200 free. Tristan Emm was seventh in the 100 breast.

Swimmers to watch

Connor Callahan, Jr., Panther Creek: Won the NCHSAA 4A 1-meter diving state championship by .70 of a point with a 481.70.

Aaron Daniels-Freeman, Sr., Durham Riverside: Took third in 4A diving (470.15 points).

Jason Hauser, Sr., Panther Creek: Finished fourth in 500 free (4:35.55)

Zach Lewis, Sr. Raleigh Charter: Runner-up in 50 free (21.71) and 100 back (52.76)

Riley Mears, Soph., St. David’s: NCISAA 1A/2A champ in the 200 IM (2:05.96) and 500 freestyle (4:56.37).

Justin Ress, Sr., Cary: Top-ranked college prospect in North Carolina, according to CollegeSwimming.com. Ress is an Olympic Trials qualifier in the 200-meter backstroke, 200 individual medley and 400 IM. The N.C. State recruit won the 4A 500 freestyle (4:32.69).

Tosh Kawaguchi, Cary: Eastern Michigan recruit was fifth in 100 backstroke.