The N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A East Regional produced an array of impressive performances to choose from Saturday morning at Triangle Aquatic Center.
“Routinely spectacular” is an oxymoron, but it aptly describes double regional victories of Leesville Road junior Grace Countie and Middle Creek senior Julia Poole. Other defending state champions winning regional titles were Broughton senior Jack Messenger and Apex junior Ana Pozder.
The meet included Green Hope’s boys winning their fifth straight 4A East Regional team crown and the domination of the Leesville Road girls with 411 points over traditional power Green Hope’s runner-up 303.
But the day’s head-shaking result was Cary senior Garrett Troxler winning the 100 butterfly with a 2½-second drop from the No. 3-seeded time. Upsets of this magnitude in such high-level competition are about as rare as Michael Phelps floundering in the water.
Troxler beat Athens Drive defending state champion Zach Brown and Green Hope’s John Healy, who had finished 1-2 ahead of Troxler a week ago at the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference final.
Messenger, who has trained with Troxler in club swimming, admiringly shook his head: “I didn’t see that coming. That was a great performance.”
Troxler’s winning time of 49.56 seconds beat Brown (49.77) and Healy (50.62). Troxler clocked 52.00 a week ago at SWAC. Brown and Healy also significantly lowered their times from the SWAC meet.
“I don’t know,” Troxler answered on how he managed to beat Brown for the first time in his career. “My first turn wasn’t good, but I think that helped me with my kick. I stressed on the second lap. I just hoped my legs would hold out.”
The top eight in each event advanced to the 4A state meet Friday at TAC.
Brown and Healy didn’t come up empty-handed.
Brown won the 200 IM (1:52.90) and swam a leg on the winning 200 medley relay (1:35.27) with sophomore David Whelan, freshman Daniel Baldwin and junior Chris Silver.
He also helped Athens Drive’s rising program finish as the team runner-up. Athens Drive led Green Hope by six points entering the last two individual races. But Healy won the 100 backstroke (50.79) and junior teammate Connor Dalbo the 100 breaststroke (58.57) to allow the Falcons to pull away for the team title.
Messenger doubled in the 50 free (20.57) and the 100 free (45.57). His 2016 state title was in the 100 free (45.45).
Two other individual swimming winners were D.H. Conley senior Bradley Downs in the 200 free (1:42.38) and Cary senior Rhys Kawaguchi (4:39.74). In a tight diving competition among two seniors, Broughton’s Gray Holt edged Holly Springs’ Andy Capobianco, 535.60 to 525.80.
Countie’s sweep of the 50 free (22.59) and 100 free (50.37) included bettering her state record 50-free time of 22.75 set in last year’s state final. The East Region is part of the state meet, but the record book officially lists state records for performances at the state finals.
Leading The Pride to the team title after last year’s runner-up finish to Apex also was important to her. Leesville Road freshman Amanda Ray’s win in the 100 butterfly (55.13) and a sweep of three relays contributed heavily to the team score.
“I knew we could do it because the mentality of the team was better this year,” Countie said. “We all cheer and hug each other after races. That will help us in the state meet.”
Poole, who is committed to N.C. State, doubled in her two defending state title events with a 2:01.87 in the 200 IM and 1:02.83 in the 100 breast. Poole was pushed down the stretch as she was even at the last turn with Leesville Road sophomore Ashley McCauley (1:03.63) and Apex sophomore Mikayla Fullerton (1:03.94).
Apex junior Ana Pozder won her defending state title event with a 4:52.36 in the 500 free. She wins routinely but says it never gets old.
“I love to swim, I love to race and I love to win,” she said, adding the pressure doesn’t mount. “I focus on my techniques and my pace and don’t worry about winning.”
Other event winners were Sanderson freshman Kenna Haney in the 200 free (1:50.87), Green Hope senior Kate Moore in the 100 backstroke (56.56) and Holly Springs sophomore Carmen Hernandez in diving (377.85 points).
In two other boys relays, Troxler and Kawaguchi were on Cary’s winning 400 free (3:12.51) with junior John Grotjohn and sophomore Jeremy Berkowitz.
Silver and Whelen contributed to Athens Drive’s other relay victory in the 200 free (1:27.91) with senior Grant Meade and freshman Cameron Thomas.
In Leesville Road’s sweep of girls relays, the 200 medley (1:46.05) had sophomore Brooke Morgan teamed with McCauley, Ray and Countie; in the 200 free relay (1:37.05), sophomore Grace Newton and sophomore Jessie Frank joined McCauley and Countie; in the 400 free relay (3:31.50), Morgan was joined by senior Abigail Toburen, junior Hannah Bruno and senior Alexis Vetrano.
1. Leesville Road, 411; 2. Green Hope, 303; 3. Apex, 270; 4. Enloe, 162; 5. Millbrook, 137; 6. D.H. Conley, 132; 7. Apex Friendship, 131; 8. Sanderson, 130; T9. Broughton, 122; T9. Middle Creek 122.
1. Green Hope, 302; 2. Athens Drive, 267; 3. Cary, 221; 4. Broughton, 188; 5. Enloe, 173.5; 6. Millbrook, 144; 7. Wakefield, 140.5; 8. Hoggard, 128; 9. Sanderson, 122; 10. Leesville Road, 109.5.