Nail Biters: Westminster and Marist Take Home the Glory at Finals of Georgia High School State

Photo Courtesy: Donna Nelson

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Finals were underway this afternoon at the finals of Georgia High School class 5A State Championship Meet.

The meet started off with a fast start. Westminster proved victorious setting yet another state record, breaking their own record from prelims. Westminster was behind by over a second after the first leg, as each swimmer tried to make up what they could. It was a fierce battle to the finish as Westminster and Chamblee came into the ultimate showdown through the anchoring of the 50 Free. Chamblee dove into the last leg over a half a second ahead of Westminster and for a moment it seemed that the second seed could pull off an upset. Ultimately though senior Joseph Rodriguez‘s jaw dropping fast split (21.03) guaranteed Westminster’s gold, along with Owen Downs‘ Backstroke (24.05), Derek Cox putting up a shockingly quick Breaststroke split (24.82), and Senior Erek Cox putting up an impressive swim in the Butterfly (22.40).  Chamblee turned in an impressive total time 1:33.39 to take home the silver.  Dalton captured third with a respectable 1:35.14.

In the 200 FreePaidea’s Senior Dean Farris stopped the clock first with an amazing performance of 1:37.06.  Farris took control of the race from the very start, putting on the heat early by being out at the 100 at 47.32.  Turning into the last 50 with a full two and a half second lead on second place. Senior John Mataxas captured the silver finishing with an impressive 1:39.05. Truly remarkable though was Mataxas’ final split, the fastest in the field of 24.67.  Erik Cox, touched the wall right on the heels of Mataxas, finishing third with a 1: 39.36.

As the meet turned to the 200 Individual MedleyDerek Cox took hold of the race from the Butterfly on, finishing with a final time of 1:49.37.  The Butterfly proved to be a stronghold for Cox as he cruised through the first leg in a shocking 22.95.  He held the lead throughout the event, pushing into the last 50 with over a second and a half lead.  Freshman Liam Bell from Chamblee, made an impressive debut as a state individual finalist, capturing second with a 1:50.53.  Junior Jeffery Durmer seized third in the event completing the 200 with a 1:51.14

The journey to a school victory proved tight from the start of the meet on.  After the 200 IM Westminster led with 105 points, Chamblee in second with 78, and Dalton in the mix, third with 63 points.

The splash and dash, also known as the 50 Free, proved to be the nail biting, nitty gritty sprint that its reputation claims.  John Mitchell, stormed through, getting his hand on the wall first for gold with a 20.89.  Right in the wake of it all was Tan Dunn, a Sophomore from Mcintosh, capturing second in 21.05.

After the diving points from Thursday were calculated in, the team race looked to be a battle between Westminster and Chamblee.

Dean Farris proved his dominance yet again, proving his sprinting abilities in the strong field of the 100 Butterfly.  With all top four finishers were sub 50 in the event.  The only competitor to be sub 48, Farris turned in a 47.90, gaining an initial lead off his first 50 in a 22.14.  Ethan Young got his hands on the wall for silver, putting up a 48.29.  John Mataxas, right in the mix of it all, took home the bronze, finishing the 100 in a 48.83.

In the 100 Free, the title came down to a photo finish.  John Mitchell pushed through for the gold, touching the wall with a 45.73.  Merely thirteen hundredths a head of second place, Erek Cox, Mitchell’s slight lead at the 50 guaranteed his win, as the two seniors came barreling in for the finish.  Even a closer finish however, was the fight for second, as Sophomore David Gray, put it all on the line in the last 50, finishing third just TWO HUNDREDTHS behind Cox.  Gray came back the fastest in the field, splitting 23.41 for his last 50.

As much as an adrenaline rush the 100 Free was, the 500 proved equally entertaining throughout the entire mid distance race.  The heat was on between Durmer and Brennan Day, as the two men battled it out.  Durmer was trailing by over a second the entire race until the very last 50 when he powered out a shockingly last 50.  Heart on the line, Durmer split a 26.04 to take home the title in a truly photo finish with a beautiful 4:32.09.  Day touched just two hundredths later, with gold so close and yet so far in an instant.  The race for bronze was equally intense, as Robert Wylie charged home the last 50 to take home third with a 4:37.09

Westminster continued its relay stronghold in the 200 Free Relay, dominating the field with a final time of 1:24.08.  The Senior quartet of Derek Cox (20.53), Erek Cox (21.23), Phillip Stith (21.11) and Joseph Rodriguez (21.21), made a statement from the start, and held their lead the entire way through.  Silver was captured by Mcintosh with a final time of 1: 27.88.

With relays double the points, Westminster’s win in both relays proved significant, making their lead over St. Pius even greater after the 200 Free Relay.

With the 100 Backstroke up next, Ethan Young demolished his own record, stopping the clock at the breath taking time of 47.20.  With only a two second fade between his first and second 50, Young made a statement from the very start.  Second was taken by Sophomore Tan Dunn, who turned in a respectable 49.11

The 200 Medley Relay proved Derek Cox‘s expertise in the Breaststroke and he did not disappoint in the 100.  Cox won gold with a speedy 55.17 narrowly missing the state record of 55.03.  Freshman Liam Bell finished his first state meet individually seamlessly, touching the wall for silver with a 55.76- a VERY impressive debut, being one of the only two men sub 56.

The meet ended with a bang in the 400 Free Relay.  Chamblee finally tasted the sweet piece of gold they missed in previous relays, winning a 3:08.28.  The team of Noah OhLiam BellAlex Perry, and John Mitchell  closed out a successful championship swim from the start of the race.  Leading the entirety of the 400 yards, Mitchell touched the wall a full two and a half seconds ahead of Dalton.  Dalton turned in a 3:10.86 to take home the silver.

Ultimately, Westminster‘s Relay wins and strong performances throughout the meet guaranteed their team victory.  The truly close race came between Chamblee and St. Pius for second place.  Although Chamblee won the last relay, it was ultimately St.Pius‘s depth that brought home second place, only half a point ahead of Chamblee in third.

Men’s Team Scores

1. Westminster 362.5
2. St. Pius X 256.5
3. Chamblee 256
4. Dalton 218
5. McIntosh 160
5. North Atlanta 160
7. Marist 126
8. Pace Academy 96
9. Dunwoody 95
10. Cambridge 91

Women’s Side

Pace Academy started off the meet with an dominant lead in the 200 Medley Relay, as the upperclassmen quartet turned in a final time of 1:46.44.  Senior Madison Graham set the tone of the race, gaining a lead of over a second and a half for her teammates (26.52).  Olivia Baker (30.51), Grace Ferry (24.61) and Anna VanZyverde (24.80) continued the lead resulting in gold after the first event.  The Marist women captured second with an impressive 1:47. 86.

Ferry kept the good vibes going straight into the 200 Free, proving herself to be the only sub 1:50 competitor, as she collected her second gold medal of the day with a 1:49.42.  Caitlyn McHugh took home the silver posting a 1:50.18.

The 200 IM had the potential for upset as the last 50 heat was turned on.  But Danielle Della Torre was able to take home the gold, holding off Freshman Jade Foelske, capturing the gold in a 2:01.01.  Foelske put forth a tremendous effort throughout the Free leg, splitting 27.95, for a total time of 2:01.43.  Elizabeth Bailey was able to get her hand on the wall for third, with a AA-A qualifying time of 2:02.36.

As the meet turned towards the sprints, Donna Blaum a Junior from Starr’s Mill earned the ultimate sprint crown, flying through the water in a quick 23.44.  She was not too far ahead of second place, Allie Paschal who took home the silver with a 23.60.

After the diving scores were factored in, a quick look at the team scores demonstrated Marist’s strong lead, in first with 132 points.  Still within reach, Sequoyah and Pace Academy trailed with 95 and 90 points respectively.

The 100 Butterfly provided a game changer with Freshman Jade Foelske finally got her hand on the wall for a taste of glory and victory as she cruised to first in a 54.31.  Although behind at the half way mark, Foelske powered through the last 50 putting up an impressive 28.49, capturing the gold only twelve hundredths against second place Elizabeth Bailey (54.44).

The 500 provided yet ANOTHER close race, as it all came down to the last 50, with Grace Ferry and Caitlyn McHugh literally neck and neck the entire race.  At the end Ferry was able to hold her slight lead and pushed to win the title with a 4:53.10.  McHugh finished not even two tenths behind (4:53.24).  Ashley Cesario finished third, touching the clock as the only other competitor to break the fabled 5 minute mark in a 4:58.73.

As the 200 Free Relay started, all schools knew what was at stake with the valuable chance to gain double points.  In the end, Dunwoody slammed in first, stopping the clock at the collective time of 1:38.10 with the quartet of Laura Sprawling (24.61)Hannah Robison (25.09), Allie Rieter (24.16) and Kaleigh McGrady (24.24).  The four held a steady lead throughout the duration of the race.

After event 18, the team race was rapidly tightening up, as Sequoyah made moves to be less than 20 behind Marist.

The 100 Back was an exciting race with all of the top three women under 56.  Ultimately Raleigh Bentz ended victoriously, taking first with a 55.34.  Madison Graham (55.91) and Allie Paschal (55.98) were in a tight fight as well, as it came down to a battle of grit throughout the last 50 for the silver medal.

Danielle Della Torre closed out her exhilarating individual meet, with a victory in the 100 Breaststroke, punching in at 1:02.38.  Allie Reiter, not far behind closed out second as she touched the wall with a 1:02.68, just a hair ahead of third place, Jordan Gulle touching at 1:02.74.

It all came down to guts for the glory with the final event- the 400 Freestyle Relay.  Dunwoody with all its will and might, stormed through with a total time of 3:32.95.  With a comfortable lead throughout the race, this win promised Dunwoody a second place finish in the team race just ahead of Sequoyah

Despite its best effort though, the relay victory was not enough to catch the all mighty Marist who won the meet with 225 points.

Women’s Team Scores:

1. Marist 225
2. Dunwoody 215
3. Sequoyah 192
4. Pace Academy 186
5. Chamblee 140
6. Starr’s Mill 131
7. North Oconee 130
8. Wesleyan 124
9. LaGrange 122
10. Oconee County 121

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Author: Nikki Cannon

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Nikki Cannon is a recently retired swimmer who spent her college career at Boise State University in Idaho studying communication.  Before heading to the gem state, she spent her years swimming in Vancouver, Washington. 

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