The finals of the Georgia 1A-5A high school state championships saw an onslaught of the state record books, led by a trio of senior Division I commits and one underclassman.
Caitlin Cooper rebroke the state 50 free record she first set in prelims, Gunnar Bentz took down a pair of records including his blistering 200 IM of 1:45.5, and Paul Powers broke the 100 freestyle record. The three seniors are bound for Virginia, Georgia and Michigan, respectively. In addition, sophomore Ethan Young broke his own 100 backstroke record that he set in prelims, and Cooper’s 200 free relay smashed a mark of its own.
Bentz led St. Pius X to the boys team title, while Cooper’s Woodward Academy triumphed for the girls.
Marist kicked off the meet with a state championship in the 200 medley relay, led by an all-freshmen back half – Elizabeth Bailey put up the fastest butterfly split at 25.70 while Tory Lauterbach split 24.22 for the second-fastest free leg of the field. Joining them were junior Anne Locker and sophomore Hannah Lagod. Altogether, the team went 1:47.13 to win by almost a full second, and the entire relay should return next season.
North Paulding’s Stephanie Peters won the 200 free, dipping below 1:50 to win in 1:49.50. The Georgia commit was dominant in the back-half, coming home in 27.9, the only swimmer in the A final under 29 seconds.
The 200 IM was a thrilling battle between Westminster’s Katie Christy and Northview’s Kelsey Prince. The pair of juniors each went 2:03, with Christy ultimately winning in 2:03.31. She pulled ahead on the first two legs, but Prince charged hard through the breaststroke, putting the fastest split of the field. She also outsplit Christy on the freestyle, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Westminster swimmer’s huge lead.
Caitlin Cooper showed up for the first time in the girls 50 free. After breaking Amanda Weir’s state record in prelims, Cooper lowered the mark even further, going 22.69. The Woodward Academy senior blew away the field in taking another tenth off her state record.
Wesleyan freshman Abby Gardner cleaned up the diving event, scoring 458.20 to top Greenbrier junior Ayanna Woods.
Aja Malone, who grabbed two #1 seeds out of the prelims, defending the first one by winning the 100 fly in 54.39. That’s still a ways off the state record of 52.44, but that mark was set by Kathleen Hersey and is also the national high school record for independent schools.
Cooper returned to win her second title in the 100 free. She did sneak under 50 seconds, but wasn’t able to knock off her second Amanda Weir record of the week. Her 49.78 is still seven tenths off Weirs state mark, but it did win the event by a half-second.
Peters completed a distance sweep by winning the 500 free in 4:54.30. She had to fight for this one, though, racing St. Pius X’s Julia Durmer and Marist’s Sarah Smith early. When Durmer and Smith faded at about the 300-mark, Peters then had to keep an eye on a surging Isabella Issa, who charged her way from the middle of the pack to take second overall in 4:56.73.
After that, Cooper was back in the pool, leading off Woodward’s 200 free relay. Her 22.74 was just .05 off her open 50 from earlier, but also one one-hundredth faster than her state record from the prelims, showing remarkable consistency over the course of a multi-day meet. That was the boost Woodward needed to go 1:34.87 to smash the state record by seven tenths. The team also included Joelle Borchers, Charlotte Berno and Kathleen Cook.
The 100 back was a tight race, with Cartersville’s Elise Hart coming from behind to top 100 fly champ Malone 55.33 to 55.61. Hart nearly even-split her race, going out in 27.36 and coming home in 27.97, the fastest second 50 in the field by nearly a second.
The 100 breast was another nail-biter, this one even closer than the previous. Pope’s Emma Murray led a pack of 4 girls who all went 1:04, with the state champ and 4th place separated by just a half a second. Murray won in 1:04.36, Westminster’s Christy was second in 1:04.50, Darby Wayner took third with a 1:04.65 and fourth was Gwynn LaMastra with a 1:04.85. All of those girls except LaMastra are juniors, so the stage is already set for an exciting rematch in 2015.
Finally, Woodward won its second-straight relay, although this time the state record eluded them. Cooper once again led off, going 50.69 in her fourth swim of the night. She, Borchers, Sarah Coats and Cook went 3:29.33 to win easily, getting a 50.9 anchor leg from the senior Cook.
Ultimately, Woodward’s relay dominance was too much for a deep Westminster team to overcome in the team points. Cooper left her senior season as a state champion as Woodward took the team trophy by 26.
Top 5 Teams
1. Woodward 229
2. Westminster 203
3. Marist 190
4. St Pius X 144.5
5. Oconee County 125.5
Marist started off the boys meet the same way it did the girls – on top. Sweeping the medleys, Marist won the boys event with a 1:34.85, touching out St. Pius X by just .07. That was thanks to senior anchor Chase Martenson, who outsplit his opponent by… exactly .07. Some fast splits across boht relays: Marist’s Christian Lorys led off in 23.80 on backstroke, and St. Pius X’s Gunnar Bentz went 21.2 on his butterfly leg. Besides Lorys and Martenson, other members of the state championship relay were Braxton Young and Alex BeMiller.
In the 200 free, Northview’s Knox Auerbach stormed to his first of two state titles on the night, going 1:37.86 to blow away the field. That time knocks almost a full second off of Knox’s lifetime-best. As a junior, he now sits 1.7 seconds off of Matias Koski’s state record, a fairly big gap, but not an insurmountable goal for his senior season.
The 200 IM saw Gunnar Bentz fly out to a big victory of his own, going 1:45.55 to smash Eric Shanteau’s state record by well over two seconds. Most notably, Bentz came home in an astounding 24.66, best in the field by two full seconds.
Current 50 free state record holder Paul Powers left the event to his younger brother this year. Ty Powers, also of North Hall, went 20.59 to win the event, one of two swimmers under 21 seconds.
Pace Academy’s Harris Moncino scored 573.65 to win 1-meter diving in dominant fashion before Bentz was back in the pool for the 100 fly. Bentz went 47.26 to pick up his second state championship and second state record of the night. This time, he knocked off the old state mark of Jimmy Yoder, now a freshman at Stanford. Second in this race was Dalton sophomore Ethan Young, who would go on to win his own state title later in the night.
After that, the elder Powers finally made his splash at the meet, winning the 100 free in a state-record 43.19, breaking his own state record from prelims and setting a new lifetime-best. He won the event by three seconds, and continues to inch closer to a 42-second 100 free.
Auerbach returned in the 500, going 4:33.55 to win easily. He jumped out to a 3-second lead at the 200 mark and put it into cruise control from there to nab his second state title as a junior.
The Powers brothers manned the first two legs of the winning 200 free relay, with Paul leading off in 19.85 for North Hall. Ty was 20.28 before David Schofield and Stone Daniel took over to seal the win in 1:24.97. The relay came oh-so-close to knocking over the state record of 1:24.85, but couldn’t quite close hard enough. Still, the time was enough to win by a second and a half and vault North Hall into the top 5 in running points.
Powers came directly off that relay to swim the 100 backstroke, where he finished second. The big name in that race, though, was sophomore Ethan Young, who went 47.57 to take three more tenths off the state record he broke in prelims. He was nearly two seconds ahead of Powers, going out in an outstanding 22.9 before coming home in a field-best 24.5.
The 100 breast went to Gainesville’s Colin Monaghan in 56.35. The junior had to fight off St. Pius X senior Basil Orr, who was second in 56.79, as well as Ty Powers’ 57.11
Finally, St. Pius stormed to a meet-ending 400 free relay win in 3:09.23. Orr came off the breaststroke to lead off the relay, going 47.6. Jeffrey Durmer and Zach Halbig manned the middle two legs before Bentz came back to split 44.1, carrying St. Pius from third to first on one fell swoop.
That relay gave 40 points to St. Pius, which turned out to be significant – Marist and St Pius X had traded off the lead the entire meet, with Marist holding a 4-point lead prior to the relay. But the relay powered St Pius past their opponents and into a state championship by 8 points.
Top 5 Teams
1. St Pius X 199
2. Marist 191
3. Westminster 190
4. Chamblee Charter 172
5. North Hall 143