CANTON — Eight new county records were set and the dominant high school swimming program in the area retained its position on top at this year’s Cherokee County Championship Meet.
The annual event held at the Cherokee County Aquatic Center saw swimmers from each of the six high schools in the county compete in 24 events on Saturday afternoon. For the fourth year in a row Etowah claimed the combined team championship, but this time the head coach had a personal connection with the experience.
First-year head coach Kaitlyn Smith, who served as the head coach at Cherokee for the last four seasons, was a member of the 2007 Etowah swim team which snapped Sequoyah's 10-year run of county championships. Now, more than a decade later, Smith helped keep the Eagles on top of the county in her first season as head coach at Etowah.
“The spot at my alma mater came open this past year so I took the opportunity to move over here,” Smith said. “I don’t have words for this. It’s just so exciting and we couldn’t have done this without all the help and all these kids. I knew it was going to be close because there are great swimmers at each school and all the other teams were close. It was such a good meet to bring home the trophy.”
For the fourth year in a row, Etowah has claimed the Cherokee Co. combined team swimming championship. pic.twitter.com/LuBwcUkhIa— Patrick O'Shea (@Patrick_J_OShea) January 26, 2020
Etowah finished with 656 combined team points, beating out River Ridge (636) and Creekview (520) who finished second and third, respectively. Sequoyah (345), Woodstock (278) and Cherokee (169) finished third through six within the combined team standings.
Individually, Etowah took first in both the boys and girls 100 yard butterfly event with Cole Dallas (55.83) and Payton Smith (57.61). Etowah also took first place in the boys 200 yard freestyle relay with Dallas, Gann Billings, Zack Zamorano and Ben Willett finishing with a time of 1:31.58.
While Etowah took the combined team championship, several swimmers set new marks on the county’s record list. Sequoyah junior Grant Davis and sophomore Delaney Harrison each set multiple county records on Saturday while River Ridge junior Sarah Brown was also a part of multiple new record lows.
Davis, who is committed to swim at Auburn University, set a new mark in the 100 yard freestyle with a time of 46.88, breaking the 2017 record of 47.95 set by Woodstock’s Chase Moore. Davis also shattered the record for the 500 yard freestyle which had been set by Etowah’s Alec Cohen in 2011. Davis’ time of 4:32.33 broke Cohen’s previous mark of 4:37.19 by nearly five full seconds.
“I was surprised on the 100 and I missed the 500 record last year by a second, so I was hoping to come back this year and get it,” Davis said. “It’s really exciting to set those records and hopefully it encourages another generation of swimming after me once I leave. I hope someone can come up after me and beat these times.”
Heard on the pool deck by a younger swimmer: “Grant Davis is amazing.”Sequoyah senior sets a new Cherokee County record in the 100 yard freestyle (46.88) breaking the old record of 47.95.Davis is committed to swim at Auburn. pic.twitter.com/jvS5lNrbhS— Patrick O'Shea (@Patrick_J_OShea) January 25, 2020
Harrison also set two new county records, breaking her own records in both the 50 yard freestyle and the 100 yard freestyle. Her new mark in the 50 yard freestyle (24.00) edged her previous time in the event (24.25). Her new time in the 100 yard freestyle (52.15) also was a hair faster than a season ago (52.84).
Sequoyah sophomore Delaney Harrison just set a new Cherokee County record (breaking her own record set as a freshman) with a 24.0 in the 50 yard freestyle. pic.twitter.com/3k7TsPuUIF— Patrick O'Shea (@Patrick_J_OShea) January 25, 2020
Brown set a new county mark in the girls 100 yard breaststroke (1:04.7), breaking her own record from a season ago (1:05.22).
“I was pretty confident heading in because my breaststroke feels better than it ever has before,” Brown said. “I’ve been training super hard and I’m excited for what the rest of the season has in store for me because I didn’t rest for this meet. I’m going to rest for the state meet and I’m just super pumped to see what’s next.”
🚨 Record alert 🚨 River Ridge junior Sarah Brown broke her own Cherokee Co. record in the 100 breaststroke, setting a new mark of 1:04.7. pic.twitter.com/QgnIcX08SS— Patrick O'Shea (@Patrick_J_OShea) January 25, 2020
Brown also swam on the River Ridge teams which set new county marks in the girls 200 yard medley relay (1:51.39) and the 400 yard freestyle relay (3:40.46). Brown was joined in the 200 yard medley relay by Nicole Fetcinko, Ashley Fortin and Haley Fortin. Fetcinko, Ashley Fortin and Katie Blankinship joined Brown in the 400 yard freestyle relay.
Woodstock’s Mason Sommer also set a new county mark in the boys 100 yard breaststroke. Sommer’s new time of 58.21 edged out Michael McDowell’s 2017 record of 58.28. Sommer also finished in first place in the boys 200 yard individual medley (1:59.15)
Along with Brown, who also finished first in the girls 200 yard individual medley (2:07.14), Sequoyah freshman Laurel Blase was the only other swimmer to win multiple individual races. Blase finished first in the girls 200 yard freestyle (1:54.13) and the 500 yard freestyle (5:12.93)
The Etowah girls took first place in the girls team standings with 382 points. River Ridge (275) and Creekview (243) took second and third place while Sequoyah (185), Woodstock (149) and Cherokee (68) finished fourth through sixth in the girls team standings.
The River Ridge boys took first place in the boys team standings with 361 points. Creekview (277) and Etowah (274) took second and third place in the county while Sequoyah (160), Woodstock (129) and Cherokee (101) finished fourth through sixth, respectively, in the boys team standings.
The county swimmers will now have a full week of preparation before the GHSA Swimming and Diving Championships which are set to begin Thursday, February 6 and complete on Saturday, February 8. The entirety of the state championships will be held at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center in Atlanta.