If this was a preview of next week’s 4A East swimming regional, then buckle up.
In the final event, Apex’s boys completed a Southwest Wake Athletic Conference title sweep, stopping a seven-year streak by the Green Hope boys and two-year stretch for the Falcons’ girls.
Apex had led Green Hope by a handful of points for most of the day, but fell behind by eight after the next-to-last event, the 400 free relay. But the Cougars’ top two relays outdistanced Green Hope’s two by enough spots to win 616-612 for a dramatic finish Saturday at the Triangle Aquatic Center.
It is Apex’s first conference title since 2008, which is also the last time the Cougars swept the league.
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Apex’s girls made sure Green Hope’s streak of boy-girl sweeps stopped at two, dominating the conference title with 741 points to 610 against the runner-up Falcons.
Apex’s Katie Godlewski won the 100 free (54.72) and Ana Pozder took the 500 free (5:01.65). Maya Aizhulova won the diving competition Friday.
The Cougars had fewer winners than Green Hope, but depth helped them rack up big points in every event. The two sides never met in the regular season, so the result was hard to predict coming in.
“The amount that we won by was very surprising to all of us, because we know Green Hope is a powerful team. They can get first and second in probably every event,” Godlewski said. “We had a lot of depth. So even though Green Hope was getting first and second, we (could) get in the top 18 and still score more points than them.”
Green Hope’s winners varied. N.C. State recruit Brooke Rubendall won the 200 free (1:51.89), Rebecca Ssengonzi took the 100 butterfly (58.60), Jenny Nusbaum won the 50 freestyle (24:49) and Kate Moore the 100 backstroke (58.09).
The Falcons also swept all three relays: 200 medley (1:49.56), where Moore and Ssengonzi teamed up with Katie Sanders and Lauren Medlin; 200 free (1:40.16) with Regan Lawrence, Rubendall, Medlin and Nusbaum; and 400 free (3:34.33) with Rubendall, Moore, Medlin and Nusbaum.
Middle Creek’s Julia Poole, a defending 4A champ in the 200 IM won that event (2:04.40) and 100 breaststroke (1:06.04) en route to MVP honors.
“I just wanted to get the points for my team,” said Poole, who helped the Mustangs take fourth, 13 points behind Panther Creek. “It was fun. This year is the best year that Middle Creek has ever had and it was exciting to compete against these teams.”
Apex’s Kevin Maksinchuk was named SWAC girls coach of the year.
There were three double-winners on the boys’ side: Cary’s Rhys Kawaguchi, Athens Drive’s Tyler Silver and Apex’s Caleb Totten. All three shared the boys’ MVP honors.
Totten’s wins in crowded fields, winning the 50 free (21.79) and 100 free (48.42) were big in a competition where every point mattered. He was the anchor leg as the Cougars won the crucial and final event, the 400 free relay (3:13.93) that sealed the win.
“It was exhilarating,” Totten said. “We were really hyped for it. We had a faster relay so we knew going in we were going to win. It just made us a lot more hyped. We really wanted to get first.”
Silver’s dominance was expected. The defending 4A backstroke champ and Florida recruit won the 100 butterfly (50.96) and 100 backstroke (49.70) and helped the Jags win two relays.
He teamed up with brother Chris Silver, Drew Hollet and Zach Brown to claim the 200 medley relay (1:37.56) and 200 free relay (1:28.84)
Brown added a win in the 200 IM (1:56.06) for the third-place Jaguars. It was their highest finish since joining the present-day SWAC.
“On both sides, our men and our women, we really swam out of our minds,” Tyler Silver said. “We didn’t have many older guys, but a lot of my high school friends came onto the team this year and did it for fun. Even though they weren’t as fast, they all had a ton of fun doing it and improved a ton from what they were expecting.”
Kawaguchi, a junior, claimed the 200 free (1:44.80) and 500 free (4:44.72) as the Imps took fourth, five points behind Athens.
“I was pretty happy with my swims,” Kawaguchi said. “At states, I want to be top three in the 500 and in the 200, top eight I’d be happy with.”
Middle Creek’s Jordan Mintz won the 100 breaststroke (1:00.39).
On Friday, Panther Creek’s Connor Callahan, the defending 4A champ, won the diving competition with a whopping 504.05 points.
Athens Drive coach Shane Barry was voted boys’ coach of the year.
SWAC team scores
1. Apex 616
2. Green Hope 612
3. Athens Drive 406
4. Cary 401
5. Middle Creek 266
6. Panther Creek 256
7. Apex Friendship 117
8. Holly Springs 101
9. Fuquay-Varina 54
1. Apex 741
2. Green Hope 610
3. Panther Creek 314
4. Middle Creek 301
5. Athens Drive 190
6. Cary 186
7. Holly Springs 151
8. Apex Friendship 123
9. Fuquay-Varina 107