Chapel Hill’s repeat in the boys’ swimming and diving state championship came with an exclamation point Thursday night.
Unlike a year ago, when the Tigers claimed the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A championship with only one first-place finish, this year’s title came with three gold medals.
Chapel Hill had 341 points to beat runner-up Cardinal Gibbons (301.5) and claim the program’s fifth state championship. Last year the Tigers edged the Crusaders by 30.
“It kind of shows how much better we’ve gotten over the (past) year,” Chapel Hill senior Jake Pudik said.
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Marvin Ridge won the girls’ title for the second straight year, scoring 383 points to cruise by Cardinal Gibbons (257) and Chapel Hill (216).
Gibbons finished its last season in the 3A ranks before moving up to 4A next year.
Tigers boys come in droves: The Tigers knew that Cardinal Gibbons was going to have a chance to close the gap going into the final event.
That just meant Chapel Hill had to be that much faster at what it did best.
“We opened the door a little bit for them to come back on us,” Chapel Hill coach Steve Riegler said. “Our sprint events – 100 (-yard) free(style), 50 free – is where we really outscored them a lot.”
Pudik won the 100 freestyle (47.47 seconds) and was second in the 50freestyle. Teammate Christopher Eron was fourth in the 50 freestyle and Patrick O’Donnell was fourth in the 100 breaststroke.
Pudik, Eron, David Baston and Emery Harwell combined to win the 200 freestyle relay (1:28.36) while Pudik, Eron, Ang Li and O’Donnell did the same in the 400 freestyle relay (3:14.44).
The Tigers also had two of the top four divers – Daniel Margolis (second) and Thomas Billman (fourth) – to gain an extra 32 points.
Cardinal Gibbons’ Christopher Raymond, Noah Cairns, Shane Humphrey and Cothalee Watko broke the 3A state record in the 200 medley relay (1:37.15) while Chapel Hill was third. Humphrey was also fourth in the 100 butterfly.
Cairns, a North Carolina recruit, dominated the 500 freestyle (4:32.55) while Watko took third. Cairns also took the 100 breaststroke (58.11) to give him four individual state titles in his career and his second straight MVP honor.
“We were supposed to lose by more than 100 points and we ended up losing by 40, so just the fact we were able to do that was pretty good,” Cairns said.
The Crusaders were also fourth in the 200 freestyle relay.
Corinth Holders’ Connor Blanford became the first boys state champion in school history by taking the 200 individual medley (1:53.95). He also finished second in the 100 backstroke and was on a fourth-place 200 medley relay team. The Pirates were sixth in the state, their highest finish ever.
“I’m very happy with how I did,” Blanford said. “I was a lot better (this year) with warming up and warming down and I was able to not psych myself out. My teammates provided a lot of support which really helped.”
Other winners included Central Davidson’s Lucas Rhodes in the 200 freestyle (1:42.88), Concord’s Tucker Wall in the 50 freestyle (21.64), Northern Guilford’s Jordan Reed in the 100 butterfly (51.34) and Cuthbertson’s Jesse Mazen in diving.
DeSelm clips Allen twice: Chapel Hill junior Claire DeSelm held off Cardinal Gibbons’ Haley Allen in the 200 IM (2:04.84) and the 100 butterfly (55.39) to repeat her state title in both events.
The two have gotten used to facing one another. It was the third straight week they had battled in their events.
“It’s always a challenge,” Allen said. “But it always makes me better.”
“I tried to stay in my own lane, but I can see her (one lane over) all the time,” DeSelm said.
The Tigers were fourth in the 400 freestyle relay and third in the 200 medley relay.
“We knew we had a little less depth than the other teams so we just knew we had to fight,” DeSelm said.
Cardinal Gibbons’ Haley Allen, Olivia Allen, Emily Dykstra and Sammy Stone won the 200 medley relay (1:48.34).
Dykstra was third in the 200 freestyle. The Crusaders finished fourth in the 200 freestyle relay and second in the 400 freestyle relay.
“Getting state runner-up was fantastic. We didn’t expect it at all. We also didn’t expect to win conference or regionals, and we pulled that off, making the impossible, possible,” Haley Allen said.
Corinth Holders’ Michaela Carter was second in the 100 backstroke and fourth in the 50 freestyle, Chapel Hill’s Jaylyn Forrest was fourth in the 500 freestyle and Cedar Ridge’s Becca Churchill was second in the 100 breaststroke. Northwood’s girls were ninth in the team standings.
Hickory’s Emmaline Peterson won the 200 freestyle (1:52.11) and 500 freestyle (4:50.11). Marvin Ridge’s Caroline Hauder took the 100 backstroke (56.21) and 100 breaststroke (1:03.79) en route to MVP honors.
Other winners included Marvin Ridge’s 200 freestyle relay team (1:39.50) and 400 freestyle relay team (3:32.56), North Lincoln’s McKenzie Weed in the 50 freestyle (24.31), Hickory’s Anna Durak in the 100 freestyle (51.74) and Marvin Ridge’s Nikki Canale won diving.