The SJCS boys swim team achieved a three-peat and the girls recorded their first-ever state runner-up finish at Saturday’s Class 3A state meet at the University of South Carolina’s Blatt Center in Columbia.
The boys finished 135.5 points ahead of runner-up Academic Magnet — an even bigger margin than last year’s 130 points. The girls finished second to Oceanside Collegiate Academy.
Senior Preston Jennings took second in the 100 butterfly and 100 freestyle — back-to-back events with about 12 minutes rest — and James Cline took second in the 100 backstroke. Junior Jack Doyle won the 200 IM and took third in the 100 breaststroke. Junior Silas Crosby won the 500 freestyle and took second in the 200 free. Freshman Colin Jordan posted third-place podium finishes in the 200 free and 100 fly.
“This is the first time that I can remember putting three relays on the podium, with two firsts and a third,” Knights coach Becky VanEvera said. “The boys medley did exactly what was needed. The boys 200 free relay was equally as fast as it had been with a completely different combination of swimmers, and the 400 free relay was pure joy to watch explode. It bested the 4A state winner, Eastside, by three seconds.”
The winning relays were comprised of Cline, Doyle, Jennings and Crosby in the 200 medley and Jordan, Crosby, Doyle and Jennings in the 400 freestyle. The 200 free relay that took third was made up of Cline, Jordan and sophomores Gabe Lagleva and Liam Kelly.
“Winning a championship is not solely about the podium finishes,” VanEvera said. “It is about all those points scored in the trenches if you will, from fourth through 20th place. Our guys moved up places like crazy to grab these points. It was amazing and fun to watch. Senior Peter Permanente led this charge by scoring 29 points.”
The girls were led by sophomore Mary Kate Farrell, the only Knight to come home with two individual state titles, having won the 200 free and the 100 breast, both come-from-behind-in-the-last-lap victories. Junior Elizabeth Loudermilk took second in the 500 free and fourth in the 200 IM. The 200 free relay (Farrell, Loudermilk, Sylvia Walker and Alice Norton) took second, as did the 400 free relay (Farrell, Loudermilk, Walker and Helen Norton).
“Similar to the boys, this team’s meet was made in the sweep points as well, led by Sylvia Waker, Helen Norton and Alice Norton,” VanEvera said.
The Knights’ other top-10 finishes were as follows:
Bryn Bissinger, 10th in the 50 free; Cline, eighth in the 200 free; Chelsea Rose Doyle, sixth in the 200 free and eighth in the 500 free; Kelly, sixth in the 50 free; Lagleva, ninth in the 200 IM and sixth in the 100 back; Chloe Lonergan, 10th in the 100 breast; Alice Norton, eighth in the 50 free; Helen Norton, sixth in the 50 free and ninth in the 100 free; Permanente, ninth in the 100 fly and eighth in the 100 back; Walker, seventh in the 100 free; and Will Wolfe, 10th in the 50 free.
The Knights had a school-record number of swimmers compete at state this year, 15 boys and 15 girls — two-thirds of the team!
However, VanEvera and assistant coach Karen Miros were proud of so much more than the results.
“This crew of athletes has been such a joy to coach this year,” VanEvera said. “They put in the work and showed up ready to swim outside of their comfort zone Saturday. So many of the younger swimmers came up to me and said, ‘Wow, that really hurt,’ after their swims, and my response, ‘Good, as it should!’
“Karen and I are so blessed to have 10 weeks with these athletes — to work with, to learn from, to figure out, to inspire, to push, to challenge, to demand from and, most of all, to enjoy. They truly push us to our limits and then show us the best versions of themselves. They make us crazy, they make us laugh, they make us downright mad and Saturday, they made us cry with joy.
“They are perfectly imperfect, and we love them.”