High School Sports

NCHSAA swimming championships roundup: 4A, 3A, 1A/2A

Jesse Ssengonzi, left, of Green Hope Men swims in the third leg of the 200 Yard Medley Relay race during the NCHSAA 4A Swimming Championships that took place at the Triangle Aquatic Center in Cary, N.C. on Saturday, February 10, 2018.
Jesse Ssengonzi, left, of Green Hope Men swims in the third leg of the 200 Yard Medley Relay race during the NCHSAA 4A Swimming Championships that took place at the Triangle Aquatic Center in Cary, N.C. on Saturday, February 10, 2018. newsobserver.com

It was a strong showing by area teams in the N.C. High School Athletic Association swimming and diving championships.

Green Hope’s boys won the 4A crown on Saturday.

Raleigh Charter won the boys and girls 1A/2A titles on Friday.

Chapel Hill was runner-up in the 3A boys championship on Thursday.


Green Hope’s boys captured its third 4A title in school history, and first since going back-to-back in 2013-14. The Falcons had 272 points, well ahead of runner-up South Mecklenburg (186), which had won the last three titles. Athens Drive (141) tied for third, Millbrook (110) was seventh and Cardinal Gibbons (103) was tied for ninth.

Behind meet MVP Grace Countie, Leesville Road’s girls were runner-up for the second year in a row. The Pride had 267 points, behind powerhouse Hough (295) High in Cornelius, which has now won the last three titles and five of the last seven. Apex was fourth (148), Green Hope seventh (144), Millbrook eighth (117), Enloe ninth (94) and Apex Friendship 10th (92).

In all, Wake County swimmers won 12 of the 24 events.

Green Hope’s quartet of John Healy, Connor Dalbo, Jesse Ssengonzi and Michael Ivy won the boys 200 medley relay (1:33.27). It was the only gold medal the Falcons took home in their first-place efforts.

Countie broke her own state record, set last year, in the 50 free (22.54) and won the 100 free (49.69), missing a second state record by one one-hundreth of a second.

She also anchored the 200 medley relay team to a state record and the 200 free relay to another gold. The Pride was in fourth at the beginning of Countie’s leg in the 200 medley relay and was a distant third in the 200 free. Ashley McCauley, Amanda Ray and Anna Carrigan made up the rest of the 200 medley relay, while Grace Newton, Caroline Keever and Brooke Morgan were on the 200 free relay team.

“Something just clicks,” said Countie, a North Carolina recruit, of her relay success. “I’m just ready and I know I have to do it for the school, so I just go all out.”

Countie wasn’t the only Leesville athlete to win a state title: Ray won the 100 butterfly (54.28) and, on Friday, diver Ashton Zuburg (450.85 points) won the 4A title easily.

There were two area double-champions.

Athens Drive senior Zach Brown defended both his state titles in the boys’ 200 IM (1:48.47) and 100 butterfly (47.70). It’s the third straight year Brown has won the 100 butterfly.

Sanderson sophomore Kenna Haney defended her state title in the girls’ 200 free (1:47.90) and added the 500 free (4:49.59) by unseating two-time defending champ Ana Pozder of Apex.

Apex Friendship’s Brooke Zettel made school history, becoming the first Patriots athlete to win a NCHSAA individual state title (the Patriots have won an individual title in gymnastics, which is not sanctioned by the NCHSAA). Zettel broke the state record in the girls 200 IM (1:58.31) and finished third in the 100 backstroke.

Runner-up: Green Hope’s Maria Baric (girls 50 free); Cardinal Gibbons’ Katie Mitchell (girls 100 butterfly); Green Hope’s Walker Creedon (boys diving), Millbrook’s Joshua Legge (boys 500 free); Leesville Road’s Amanda Ray (girls 500 free); Millbrook boys 200 free relay; Pinecrest’s Brent Hoshall (boys 100 backstroke); Leesville Road’s Ashley McCauley (girls 100 breaststroke); Green Hope’s Connor Dalbo (boys 100 breaststroke); Green Hope boys 400 free relay.

Third-place: Pinecrest’s Brent Hoshall (boys 200 IM); Leesville Road’s Ashley McCauley (girls 200 IM); Apex’s Ana Pozder (boys 200 free); Millbrook’s Sophia Clayton-Luce (girls 50 free and 100 free); Middle Creek’s Kevin Plewniak (boys 50 free and 100 free); Green Hope’s John Healy (boys 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke); Apex Friendship’s Brooke Zettel (girls 100 backstroke); Apex’s Mikaela Fullerton (girls 100 breaststroke); Leesville Road girls 400 free relay.

Fourth-place: Green Hope’s Lauren Medlin (girls 50 free); Green Hope’s Michael Ivy (boys 100 free), Wakefield’s Sean Quinn (boys 500 free); Green Hope girls 200 free relay; Green Hope boys 200 free relay; Wakefield’s Mia Nordstrom (girls 100 backstroke); Athens Drive’s David Whalen (boys 100 backstroke); Green Hope girls 400 free relay.


Chapel Hill took runner-up in the boys’ competition with 203 points, just behind state champ Marvin Ridge – located just outside of Charlotte, in Union County – which had 246. East Chapel Hill’s girls and boys teams were each third in the Wildcats’ first year back in 3A after more than a decade of being in the 4A ranks.

Charlotte Catholic’s girls claimed the 3A crown with 298 points, ahead of Marvin Ridge’s 240 and East Chapel Hill’s 197. D.H. Conley (sixth in girls, ninth in boys) also snagged two top-10 team finishes.

One area swimmer and one diver were crowned individual state champions.

Orange’s Ben Scott won the boys 100 free (45.95 seconds) and was second in the 50 free on Thursday.

“It’s been a long time (since Orange had a state champion in swimming) but it feels really good,” Scott said. “It feels good being a senior and being able to be a state champion.”

A day earlier, on Wednesday, East Chapel Hill’s Alyssa Wang claimed the girls diving title with 473.90 points.

Runner-up: Orange’s Ben Scott (boys 100 free); Chapel Hill’s Clara Tate (girls diving); East Chapel Hill boys 200 medley relay; East Chapel Hill’s Sydney Morgan (girls 500 free); Chapel Hill’s Thomas Bretzmann (boys 500 free); Chapel Hill’s Jordan Ren (boys 200 IM); Chapel Hill boys 200 free relay; Chapel Hill boys 400 free relay.

Third-place: East Chapel Hill girls 200 medley relay; Chapel Hill’s Thomas Bretzmann (boys 200 free); East Chapel Hill’s Sydney Morgan (girls 200 IM); Chapel Hill’s Beau Brauer (boys 500 free); East Chapel Hill’s Sophie Perez (girls 100 back); Cleveland’s Mitchell Langston (boys 100 back); East Chapel Hill’s Connor Sept (boys 100 breast)

Fourth-place: East Chapel Hill’s Zoey Mehen (girls diving); D.H. Conley’s Morgan Despres (girls 200 free and 100 free); East Chapel Hill’s Connor Sept (boys 200 IM); D.H. Conley’s Svea Torres (girls 50 free); Northern Durham’s Thomas Pritchard (boys 500 free); East Chapel Hill’s Sophie Perez (girls 100 butterfly); D.H. Conley girls 200 free relay; Chapel Hill’s Jordan Ren (boys 100 breast); East Chapel Hill girls 400 relay; East Chapel Hill boys 400 free relay.


Raleigh Charter’s girls won with 243.5 points to Lake Norman Charter’s 237. The boys scored 203.5 to edge Croatan’s 201 total.

The girls won behind Sydney Willis capturing two state individual titles and her contributions to second- and fourth-place relay teams on top of overall team depth.

But the boys, without an individual winner, relied strictly on depth. Croatan won the final two events, but second-place finishes by Jason Starbuck in the 100 breaststroke and the 400 freestyle relay team were enough to win by 1.5 points.

“I’m starstruck,” said Kim Lewis, the Raleigh Charter coach. “Sydney winning two events was huge, but every swimmer placed better than their seed time. We had a lot of depth.”

Willis, a senior, won the 200 freestyle (1:49.94) and later the 500 free (4:58.27). Both were sweet, but the 500 free meant more as her third straight state title in the event.

“I can’t explain why,” she said. “It just feels better. I wanted to win for my team.”

Not that the 200 free didn’t carry special significance. She avenged a runner-up finish a year ago to Croatan’s Lindsey Reeve. This time Reeve was the runner-up (1:50.73) as both girls beat Reeve’s 2017 winning time (1:50.99).

“I wanted to beat her, but mostly I wanted to swim my best race,” Willis said.” She put up a good fight.”

Willis, who is committed to Division II Rollins College in Florida, set personal records in both the 200 free and 500 free. The 200 free earned All-American consideration.

The only other area school with a state champion was the Carrboro girls 400 freestyle relay team. Paloma Baca, Eliot Hunsberger, Audrey Costley and Anneliese Merry won in 3:37.08. The Carrboro girls placed fourth in the team standings with 203 points.

Runner-up: Carrboro girls 200 medley relay; Carrboro’s Anneliese Merry (girls 200 IM); NCSSM’s George Heidkamp (boys 50 free); Carrboro’s Claire McDaniel (girls diving); Raleigh Charter girls 200 free relay; NCSSM’s boys 200 free relay; Raleigh Charter’s Jason Starbuck (100 breast); Raleigh Charter’s boys 400 relay.

Third-place: Raleigh Charter girls 200 medley relay; Raleigh Charter boys 200 medley relay; Raleigh Charter’s Emerson Hershfield (boys 200 free); Carrboro’s Anneliese Merry (girls 100 free); NCSSM’s George Heidkamp (boys 100 free); Carrboro’s Paloma Baca (girls 500 free).

Fourth-place: Carrboro’s Paloma Baca (girls 200 free); NCSSM’s Hanna Fulford (girls 50 free); Carrboro’s Jackson Ekeler (boys diving); Raleigh Charter’s Hannalee Ellison (girls 500 free); Raleigh Charter’s Sydney Parsons (100 breast); Raleigh Charter girls 400 relay.

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