It was apparent early Thursday on that Triangle schools were going to be playing catch-up in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A swimming and diving championships at Cary’s Triangle Aquatic Center.
Hough High, just north of Charlotte, crushed the girls’ competition and snapped a 14-year long streak by Charlotte Catholic that stretched across the 2A, 3A and 4A classifications. The Huskies had 387 points, well clear of Green Hope’s 222.
On the boys’ side, it was a battle between Hough and defending champ South Mecklenburg with the latter winning 378-242. The closest Triangle finisher was third-place Green Hope with 159.
“We had a lot of fast seniors who graduated last season but we had a lot of young swimmers step up,” Green Hope senior Henry Hollinshead said. “We don’t quite have as much depth as we used to but we still have a lot of really good swimmers.”
But the area fared well in individual races. Three local girls swimmers won state titles – two setting state records in the process – while four boys also won titles.
Middle Creek junior Julia Poole broke the oldest NCHSAA girls state record left when she out-touched Hough’s Jessica Merritt on the final lap to defend her title in the 200 IM (1:59.76). Athens Drive graduate Kirsten Smith, a four-time championship MVP, had held the record (of 2:00.58) since 2008.
Poole also took the 100 breaststroke (1:02.62) en route to MVP honors.
“I wasn’t expecting (MVP),” Poole said. “It’s really awesome.”
Leesville sophomore Grace Countie made history herself, topping the state mark in the 50 free that was set by three-time MVP Nora McCullagh of Charlotte Catholic. Countie’s time of 22.75 beat McCullagh’s of 22.88.
“I didn’t even know what the state record was,” Countie said. “It was an adrenaline rush for sure. I was estatic that I got the chance to swim that fast.”
Apex’s Ana Pozder won the 500 free (4:50.66) as a sophomore.
“I knew I had to go out fast and get in front because once I’m in front I feel confident in maintaining that pace,” Pozder said. “It’ll be exciting to see what happens the next two years.”
Top four: Green Hope’s Samantha Medlin was second in the 200 free and third in the 100 free. Teammate Kate Moore was fourth in the 200 IM and second in the 100 backstroke. The Falcons were second in the 400 free relay, where seniors Brooke Rubendall and Jenny Nusbaum also contributed, and 200 medley relay.
Millbrook was fourth in the 200 medley relay while the Wildcats’ Jordan Kohut was third in the 50 free and third in the 100 backstroke. Teammate Sophia Clayton-Luce was fourth in the 50 free and 100 free.
Middle Creek’s Sarah Giamber was third in the 500 free and teamed up with Poole and Charlotte Watts and Emily Stringfellow to take third in the 400 free relay. East Chapel Hill’s Sophie Perez was fourth in the 200 free while teammate Alyssa Wang was third in diving.
Leesville Road’s Ashley McCauley was fourth in the 100 breaststroke and the Pride took second in the 200 free relay.
More champs: Hough broke its own state record, set in 2014, in the 200 medley relay (1:43.21) and later won the 200 free relay (1:35.79) and 400 free relay (3:34.01). Hough also had winners in the 200 free (Erika Brown, 1:48.05), 100 free (Jessica Merritt, 50.18) and diving (Jocelyn Porter).
Charlotte Catholic’s Julia Menkhaus won the 100 butterfly (54.12) and 100 backstroke (53.84).
Athens Drive’s big day – finishing fourth, two points shy of Green Hope – was led by Tyler Silver and Zach Brown.
Silver, a senior, repeated his title in the 100 backstroke (49.47) and was fourth in the 100 butterfly.
“We push each other every day. Sometimes he gets me, other times I get him,” Silver said of Brown. “We really developed a special bond and I really think that helped us come out on top today.”
Brown, a sophomore, won the 100 butterfly and was second in the 200 IM. The Jaguars were also third in the 200 medley relay and second in the 200 free relay.
“I knew we could (finish high). We had a great team all year,” Brown said.
Broughton junior Jack Messenger held up his end of being the top seed in the 100 free, winning in 45.45.
“It just went by so fast, so much adrenaline was flowing,” Messenger said. “I was just like ‘Yes! I did it!’ ... I can go home and sleep happy.”
In Thursday’s diving competitions, Holly Springs’ Andrew Capobianco edged Panther Creek’s two-time defending champ Connor Callahan 593.85-551.50. Callahan had won the conference and regional competitions against Capobianco.
Top four: Cary was fourth in the 200 free relay... Apex was third in the 200 free relay... Leesville Road’s Clay Boneham was third in the 50 free... Middle Creek’s Jordan Mintz was third in the 100 breaststroke... Leesville Road’s Will Countie was second in the 100 backstroke followed by Green Hope’s John Healy and Hollinshead... Broughton’s Holt Gray was third in diving.
More champs: South Mecklenburg broke an NCHSAA record set last year by Hough in the 200 medley relay (1:32.58). The Sabres also won the 200 free relay (1:24.89). Hough took the 400 free relay (3:07.97).
Reagan High, near Winston-Salem, had Levente Bathory (1:40.49) win the 200 free from lane one.
Hough’s Will Chan won the 200 IM (1:49.86) and 100 breaststroke (55.21) to win MVP. South Meck’s Graham Weaver won the 50 free (20.76).