The 2014 4A (big school) North Carolina State Championship meet comes with a significant level of intrigue this year after some realignments over the summer.
The women of W.A. Hough have won the last two 4A State Championships in the state, and Charlotte Catholic has won 12-straight State Championships.
How does that work? Well, Charlotte Catholic has won their state titles between the 1A/2A Championships, and the last 8 in class 3A. This year, they promoted to the state’s largest classification, which set up a titanic battle with the defending champions Hough.
And while there is incredible depth and a lot of talent, the women’s finals on Friday could have just as easily been a dual meet. That’s because the two powerhouse schools combined to win all but 1 of the women’s meet’s events, including diving.
Ultimately, it would be the veterans from Charlotte Catholic that would top the youth of Hough for the state title in an impressive history-writing meet.
- Charlotte Catholic 320
- Hough 274
- Green Hope 207
- Apex 129
- Cary 117
Charlotte Catholic got a brash initiation to 4A swimming in the meet’s first event, the 200 medley relay. Both teams were well under the old State Record in finals, but Hough was a 1:43.41 to win the race by six-tenths of a second. Both lineups were loaded, but it was the younger Hough relay (with only one senior) that topped the veteran Charlotte Catholic relay (3 seniors and 1 junior). A 24.60 butterfly split from Elsa Welshofer for Charlotte Catholic gave them the edge going into the final exchange, but Hough junior Emily Allen split a 22.68 on the anchor to overcome Maria Sheridan’s 23.72 for the win.
Charlotte Catholic actually had the overall state record from last year’s meet, but Hough was a full two seconds faster than that here.
The records kept on coming from Hough. Sophomore Jessica Merritt was a 1:47.37 to win the 200 free, breaking the old State Record of 1:47.97 held by current U.S. National Teamer Sarah Henry from 2010.
Winning the first two events of the meet was a big emotional boost for Hough early, but Charlotte Catholic actually held the lead thanks to a 2-3 finish from junior Rebecca Postoll and senior Lauren Rhodes, which left them with a lead going into the next race, the 200 IM.
In that 200 IM, CC struck their first title, with senior Nicole Emery winning in 2:01.42. In 2nd place was Middle Creek freshman Julia Poole, who has a phenomenal back-half on her IM, and as she matures and gets a little better in the backstroke, she could be a star of the future.
Emery’s teammate Sara Stranick took 3rd in 2:03.26 for more big points for Charlotte Catholic.
The CC girls moved it to two-in-a-row of their own, as Nora McCullagh won a tight battle in the 50 free with a 22.88 (breaking her own State Record) ahead of the aforementioned Hough junior Allen, who was a 23.05 for 2nd. The top 6 swimmers in that race were all juniors, setting up an epic senior showdown in the spring of 2015.
In the women’s 100 fly, coming out of the diving break (though diving was completed on Thursday), neither team came away with full bragging rights. That’s because CC senior Elsa Welshofer, bound for Princeton, and Hough senior Heather Merritt, bound for South Carolina, tied with a 54.47 in the 100 yard fly.
update: that would have been the state record if Alyssa Marsh hadn’t broken it on Thursday in the 1A/2A meet)
Haley Bishop, from Panther Creek, a junior, took 3rd in 55.41 and will be the favorite headed into next year’s meet as the highest returning finisher in the field.
Though it was a tie for the win, Central Catholic extended their lead when Sheridan took 5th in 56.95.
Another race, the 6th on the women’s side, saw a 4th State Record go down, as Hough’s Emily Allen took out her own mark in the 100 free with a 49.68. She also tipped Charlotte Catholic runner-up Lauren Rhodes (50.55) in the race, with Cary High School’s Christine Kerr placing 3rd in 51.49. This was the first race since the meet-opening 200 medley where Hough actually outscored Charlotte Catholic.
While CC wont his year’s meet, they graduated a boatload of seniors, which likely makes Hough the favorite to win next year’s title. However, new seeds have been sown for the Charlotte Catholic girls, as they had two freshmen place 16th and 17th in the 100 free.
The 500 free was the lone exception to the top-two battle going on. In that race, Green Hope’s Hannah Moore broke the streak with a 4:40.98 in the 500 free, which she won by almost 11 seconds. That’s another State Record, whacking almost six seconds off of the mark by Sarah Henry. The Michigan-bound senior led her team to a 3rd-place finish on the women’s side; they could contend for the state title next year as well, with a very, very deep squad that scored a lot of points without winning a lot of events. She’s also the defending Junior National Champion in the event.
If the meet wasn’t already decided going into the 200 free relay, Charlotte Catholic just-about wrapped it up with a bomb-of-a-200 free relay, including a 22.60 anchor from McCullagh, going a 1:33.22 for another new record and another state title. All four swimmers were 23.7 or better in that race.
Not to be exhausted by her big anchor leg, one where she didn’t even need to be as good as she was, McCullagh came back a few minutes later to win the 100 back in 53.59. She beat Hannah Moore’s 54.38, and not only that, but take away Hannah Moore’s State Record from last season (54.37).
Next up came only the 2nd race of the meet where the State Record wasn’t broken; however, Hough’s Jessica Merritt did break her own personal best by over a second as the sophomore won in 1:03.44, beating out Roberson’s Alyssa Arwood (1:03.79) and Caharlotte Catholic’s Sara Stranick (1:03.82). All three of those swimmers, and in fact 15 out of the 16 scorers in this race, will be back to contest it again next season.
The meet finished with what was expected, and lived up to expectation, as another very close relay. Hough had three phenomenal legs – Allen led off in 49.33 (another State Record), she was followed by Heather Merritt in 50.36, and Jessica Merritt anchored in 49.42, but they couldn’t put in quite the 3rd leg they needed. That allowed Charlotte Catholic’s Rebecca Postoll to overcome Hough’s Rachel Bright, and that would be all she wrote. Charlotte Catholic wound up in 3:22.15, with Hough’s 3:23.07, both clearing the old State Record, to wrap up a wild meet. In total, 9 State Records were broken in 11 races (including that 100 free going down twice).
Many of the swimmers from the top two teams are teammates at SwimMAC Carolina, and between that program and a slew of other great programs, North Carolina is turning into the country’s newest high school swimming super power.
While the Green Hope women were using their depth to finish 3rd in the women’s meet, the Green Hope men were in the battle for the team title. While Green Hope ended up running away with the title by a significant 51-point margin, there was still a lot more parity in this meet, with 7 teams finishing between 101 and 163 points.
This meet had a much different feel than the women’s meet did, in that Green Hope, while the clear champions, didn’t win any men’s swimming events. They did, however, have a boatload of top three finishes to carry them.
- Green Hope 214
- J.H. Rose 163
- East Chapel Hill 146
- South Mecklenburg 127
- Hough 126
East Chapel Hill opened up the meet with a win in the 200 medley relay, using three seniors for a 1:34.55 win over Green Hope’s 1:35.38 (with four underclassmen). East Chapel Hill got a huge leadoff from Harvard-bound Koya Osada that put this race away early. Because of the greater parity in the men’s race, one star like Osada having a leg like that can put a race away early.
J.H Rose’s Eyan Eagle and Philip Rose, both seniors, went 1-2 in the men’s 200 free. Those two teammates and training partners were separated by only .01 seconds at the touch, with Eagle going 1:39.37 and Perdue going 1:39.38. Rose is committed to North Carolina and Eagle is committed to East Carolina. Eagle was a huge signing for the Pirates, and has the opportunity to immediately become the face of that program to the national fan base.
Osada got his second swim, and seocnd title, in the 200 IM with a 1:48.52, which is a new lifetime best for him. Placing 2nd, among a crew of seniors, was Green Hope sophomore Jonathan Glavich with a 1:50.96.
Colin Ellington from Holly Springs won the men’s 50 free in 20.76; he beat Eagle in that race, who tied for 2nd with Connor Long in 21.17. Eagle’s 200 free – 50 free event schedule is rather unusual in the high school schedule, though J.H. Rose was probably trying to avoid doubling him and Perdue on top of each other again in the 100 free. That 100 free win again went to Ellington in 44.86, with Perdue taking 2nd this time in 45.33 and East Chapel Hill’s Michael Wohl taking 3rd in 46.14.
J.M. Robinson’s Tyler Gomez took the win in the men’s 100 free in 49.85, but it was again Glavich from Green Hope who took 2nd in 50.05. Glavich should be the star of this meet next year as a junior. He, like his older brother Dominik, is even better in the 200 fly (not an event on the high school schedule), so that’s a race to watch for him at Y Nationals in a few weeks where he’ll represent the YMCA of the Triangle Area Swim Team.
In the men’s 500 free, swum as a timed final, seed time was not a strong indicator of final finish order. Cary’s Justin Ress came in seeded 6 seconds behind Jamison Hauser, but Ress dropped 12 seconds off of that time, and three seconds off of his best time from Winter Juniors, to win in 4:32.69.
Trey Poff was 2nd in 4:33.81, Steven Craig was 3rd in 4:35.49, and Hauser was 4th in 4:35.35 (though all four of those swimmers dropped big time off of their seeds).
Rose took their first relay win of the day in the men’s 200 free relay, and broke a new State Record in the process. The team of Eagle (20.91), Kelly Barnhill (21.58), JT Casey (21.06), and Perdue (20.11) combined for a 1:23.66 to break the old record of 1:24.78 set in 2012 by Providence High School. That swim came after placing 9th in the 200 medley relay, winning the B-final, though a better prelims swim could have left them in the top 4.
Green Hope took 2nd in 1:25.19, and Ardrey Kell was 3rd in 1:27.67.
Osada picked up his 3rd win in 3 races with a 49.10 in the 100 yard backstroke, beating South Mecklenburg’s Nathan Muray (50.63) for the crown. Murray led a trio of sophomores who went 2-3-4 in the race.
The most lopsided win of the day came from Sean Yeh in the 100 breaststroke. The senior swam a 55.97 to win that event by well over a second, though he missed his best time by half-a-second with little competition.
Regan’s Paul Neil and Bryce Durling were 2nd and 3rd, respectively, and both will return next season.
Rose won another relay as they stacked the two free relays, and also broke another State Record with a 3:04.91 in the meet-closing 400 free relay including a 44.30 anchor from Perdue. That crushed the 2006 record of 3:06.77 set by a Enloe relay that included a leadoff from Olympian Charlie Houchin. Green Hope, though, took another 2nd-place finish to finish off their title with a 3:06.22.
Osada’s East Chapel Hill relay finished 3rd in 3:07.88, with him anchoring in 45.44.