Swimmers aim for medals

Central Davidson’s Lucas Rhodes swims in the boys 200-yard freestyle event during the Davidson County Championship Meet at Winston-Salem State in December. (Photo by Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch)

The N.C. High School Athletic Association is holding state championship swim meets beginning Thursday and all seven Davidson County teams that participate in the sport will be represented.

First up is the 4-A meet on Thursday, followed by the 3-A meet on Friday and the 1-A/2-A meet on Saturday. All are being held at the Triangle Aquatics Center in Cary.

Central Davidson’s boys will try to maintain or improve on their ninth place finish in 2012 with a contingent led by Lucas Rhodes, who won the 500 free at last Friday’s regional meet, along with Jonathan Hench, Connor Sturgill and three relay teams.

Rhodes is also entered in the 200 free, which is considered a strong event for him.

“I think Lucas definitely has a chance to medal in both events,” said Central coach Chad Hench. “He’s trying to improve his times and set some school records as well. I always tell them that if you swim as fast you can, the fastest you ever have, then you know you’ve done everything you can.”

Jonathan Hench is entered in the 100 breaststroke and Sturgill is in the 100 butterfly and 100 free.

Central’s 200 medley relay team is composed of Rhodes, Hench, Sturgill and Harrison Everhart. The 200 free relay team has a lineup of Everhart, Charlie Killebrew, Greyson Myers and Connor Gallimore. Sturgill, Myers, Gallimore and Rhodes make up the 400 free relay team.

The points potential is there, as Hench sees it, for possibly a strong showing.

“Overall, last year we had a ninth place with less swimmers than we have this year,” Hench said. “So I’m hoping we can have similar results and find ourselves back in the top 10.”

West Davidson enters the 1-A/2-A meet with a team of five girls and seven boys, headed up by regional double-winner Grace Baird, who ranks as a favorite in the 200 free and 500 free.

The Green Dragons are led by first-year coach Randy Rouse, who believes in setting goals, reaching them and setting new ones.

“Our goal this week is to get to the evening session,” said Rouse, who was an assistant coach under now-retired Carl Spake. “We’ve been setting goals as we go along. Last week we wanted to get from the regional to the state. Now we want to go from morning to night.”

There are 24 individuals and relay teams in each event. Preliminaries are in the morning, with 16 swimmers advancing to the evening session in consolation and championship finals.

There’s little doubt that will happen for Baird.

“Grace has an excellent chance of being on the podium for both her events,” Rouse said.

Taylor Blankenship, Baird, Rachel Hamrick and Laura Payne are entered in the girls’ 200 medley relay.

Braxton Baird will swim the boys’ 200 free and 500 free, Alex Vander Linden is in the 50 free and Andrew Sink is in the 100 butterfly. The Dragons also have two relay teams in the state meet. Vander Linden, Phoenix Gaddy, Daniel Sharpe and Braxton Baird comprise the 200 free relay team. Vander Linden, Lee Payne, Layton Bryant and Braxton Baird will swim the 400 free relay.

Lexington has four boys in the state meet and while the number is small, the group — led by 200 free regional champion Cole Riggan — could still accumulate a significant amount of points.

Riggan is also in the 100 backstroke, an event in which he should also contend. Adam Wetherell is a strong contender in both his events, the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke. Griffin Gray is in the 50 free.

“Cole and Adam are pretty phenomenal swimmers,” said Lexington coach Edie Allen. “Cole has a pretty good chance at doing something marvelous.”

Riggan, Wetherell, Gray and Patrick DeZego make up both the 200 free and 400 free relay teams. Both teams could do well on Saturday.

“The four who are representing us are all juniors,” Allen said. “That’s a good thing. I think Cole and Alex have a very good chance to be up on the medal stand.”

North Davidson’s contingent in the 4-A state meet is led by Savannah Johnston, the regional champion in the 500 free. Johnston will also swim the 200 free.

Rachel Greene will swim the 100 breast.

Johnston, Haley Pace, Madison Wooten and Greene comprise the 200 free relay team. The 400 free relay team has Johnston, Kaylyn Vaughan, Heather Coppley and Greene.

Sam Day will swim in the boys’ 200 individual medley and 500 free.

Ledford has a large group in the 3-A state meet.

The Panthers’ Gage Setzer is entered in the boys’ 200 individual medley and 100 butterfly while Nick Gomez is in the 100 butterfly and 100 back and Carson Apple is in the 100 breast. Gomez, Apple, Setzer and Jackson Somers are swimming both the 200 medley and 200 free relays.

Lexi Kershaw will swim in the girls’ 100 free and 100 back while Caroline Klemme is entered in the 500 free and 100 back.

Klemme, Kershaw, Eric Hartzell and Leah Webster will swim both the 200 medley and 400 free relays.

East Davidson’s Marina Moore will swim in the 500 free and 100 free in the 1-A/2-A meet.

South Davidson has Haylie Moore entered in the 200 free and 100 butterfly in the 1-A/2-A meet.

Mike Duprez can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 218 or mike.duprez@the-dispatch.com.