Championships come to close

Zachary Piedt of the Rock Hill Rays competes Monday in the 200-meter butterfly.
Zachary Piedt of the Rock Hill Rays competes Monday in the 200-meter butterfly.

The action drew to a close Monday evening at the Rock Hill Aquatic Center, where the USA Swimming South Carolina State Championships, which began on Friday, went off smoothly thanks to the efforts of many important folks.

Everyone involved, from the coaches and athletes to the volunteers, officials and parents chipped in to make sure everything worked as efficiently as the clocks timing the swimmers themselves.

"These parents have had a tremendous challenge," Rock Hill Rays coach Lynn Williams said. "We've had 10 sessions, and they've fed these coaches three meals a day for three days. Some of these people have been here since before 7 this morning and won't leave until 9 or 10 tonight."

The event was also a big boon to the city of Rock Hill and the surrounding area. This is the second year the state championships have been held at the sparkling Aquatic Center. "It's not only great for our swimmers to get to stay at home, but we get to show off the facility and the city of Rock Hill," Williams said. "We've had 562 swimmers and their families here for three and a half days from all over the state. It also brings economic help to the area. It's also good exposure for our sport. Every four years, swimming gets a typical boost from the Olympics, but this is good publicity."

The performances in the pool have produced some impressive results, as well. Alex Carr was second in the 500-meter freestyle on Sunday and ninth in the 200-meter fly, which was his first time under 2 minutes and a new team record. He was also second in the 1650-meter free finals Monday evening with a time of 16:10.69, his best time by six seconds. "Alex has been in the program since he was 8 years old," said facility director and senior coach Merv Faassen-DeHeer. "He not only made junior Nat cuts but senior Nat cuts, which is just below Olympic Trial cuts." Alex will be headed to the YNats in Fort Lauderdale on April 1 and April 4.

Jenny Russell got the cut in the 200-meter breastroke to join Alex in Florida for the first time. She posted a time of 2:29.94 in her consolation heat. She was also under a second from qualifying in the 100-meter breastroke. Holly Hirsch had a lifetime best Sunday night in the 200-meter backstroke and was close to getting to YNats as well, with her final Monday night. Sam Vanbuskirk posted his best time in the 200 breastroke at 2:32.62 and placed sixth in the finals. He also dropped 25 seconds off his 1650 time Monday morning. "I was excited," he said. "It felt good because it was my last event." Izzi Woodard placed second in the 50-meter breastroke for 11-12 year-olds earlier with her best time of 34:66.

"We had a number of swimmers with AAA times," Williams said. "We had a couple with their very first AAA times and a number of kids in the finals. Brandon Keller had high points for 10 and under boys. Izzi did well in the 50 breastroke and Nicole Brashear made AAA in the 100 backstroke. Richard Keller made AAA in the 100 back and Brandon Sweezer made AAA in the 500 free. Kids are getting their times in more events and distances, and that makes them more well-rounded, which we like to see."

Zachary Piedt had his best time in the 200-meter fly Monday morning and Michelle Case posted a time of 2:45.16 in the event Monday evening. Brian Peterson recorded a 50.92 in the 100-meter freestyle final and had the 200-meter backstroke final looming, in which he was hoping to get close to YNats cut.

"Our kids are all tired," said Williams. "We had good performances from all age groups, and they did a good job across the board."