Chapel Hill’s boys and girls swimming teams swept regional titles in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A meet Saturday before a capacity crowd of 1,000 that filled the balcony seating at the Triangle Aquatics Center.
For the Tigers’ boys, it was their third straight regional crown and the next step toward defending their 2015 state title. The girls took home a trophy after finishing second in the regionals and third in the state a year ago.
Chapel Hill senior Claire DeSelm, a two-time defending state champion in the 200-yard individual medley and 100 backstroke, won her two specialties but the team captain pointed to the Tigers’ depth in both the girls’ and boys’ meets.
The boys combined three wins with four runner-up places. The girls’ depth was highlighted by a 1-2-3-4 finish in the 500-yard freestyle. The top eight in each event advanced to the state meet.
“It feels good to have all of our hard work come to fruition,” DeSelm said. “There was a lot of energy here. One thing about the 3A is everybody competes hard, but once they touch the wall it’s all good sportsmanship.”
Corinth Holders was the runners-up to Chapel Hill in both the boys’ and girls’ meets.
Corinth Holders’s Connor Blandford is the defending state champion in the 200 IM and returning state runner-up in 100 backstroke, but this year he is chasing a state double in the 200 IM and 100 breaststroke. The Kentucky-bound recruit swept the regional titles with 1:52.77 and 57.82, respectively.
“My goal was two state titles last year and it’s been my focus this year,” Blandford said. “I felt I had a better chance this year in the breast. I feel good about my times in this meet.”
Chapel Hill senior Christopher Eron won the 100 freestyle in 48.69 and was second in the 50 free (22.0). The Tigers’ other pool winner was junior Ang Li in the 100 backstroke (52.42), but sophomore Ethan Burkett added a first in diving (184.50 points).
Among the Tigers’ silver medalists, junior Jacob Werden was second in both the 200 free (1:48.45) and 500 free (4:48.77).
DeSelm was the only girls double winner with 2:09.99 in the 200 IM and 58.11 in the 100 fly.
Chapel Hill junior Uma Knaven won the 500 free in 5:10.21 and was followed by teammates Jaylen Forrest (5:11.96), Natalie Thomas (5:22.96) and Katrina Nunez (5:28.31). Forrest also won the 200 freestyle in 1:58.33.
Two other Chapel Hill gold medalists were senior Paige Jones in the 50 free (24.97) and junior Catherine Bell in diving (229.95 points).
A pair of Corinth Holders winners were freshman Rachel Strickland in the 100 back (57.88) and senior Stephanie Grandin in the 100 breast (1:08.29).