Breaking curses
Swan, Brookwood boys top Parkview for first state title

ATLANTA - The curse is over.

After being held back at virtually every major meet by rival Parkview since the early 1990s, the Brookwood boys swimming and diving team finally broke through on Saturday afternoon. The Broncos won their first state championship in the sport after a handful of state runner-up finishes (all to Parkview) in the past decade.

Their victory also broke a two-year hold on the Class AAAAA title by Parkview, which also defeated Brookwood at this year's county meet.

"(Parkview coach Jack Gayle) told us about the curse after county," said Brookwood senior Zach Lopez, who won an individual state title in the 100 breaststroke. "He called it the curse of '93."

But history couldn't slow down Stephen Swan and the hard-charging Broncos on Saturday as they totaled 273 points, enough for a fairly comfortable victory over Parkview's 228. Mill Creek (200) finished a close third while Norcross and Collins Hill made for an all-Gwinnett top five. Peachtree Ridge was seventh and Duluth tied for 10th, giving the county seven in the top 10.

Atop the heap was first-time champion Brookwood, led by Swan's two individual race wins in automatic All-American times and two relay wins. It was a nice finish to a high school career by Swan, who was hampered at state last season by a severe leg injury.

"It feels great," Swan said. "Our whole team swam well. Everybody dropped their seeds and scored higher than they should."

Swan was first in the 200 freestyle in 1 minute, 39.57 seconds and later won the 100 free in 45.89 seconds.

Swan also was on the Broncos' two state-title relay teams, joining Mark Dunn, Ken Bolton and Lopez on the 200 free relay (1:27.71) and Dunn, Bolton and Conor Sweeney on the 400 free relay (3:11.86).

"They finally broke the curse that Parkview had over us," Brookwood coach Greg Puckett said. "It was nice because they went out and earned it - they stepped it up a notch."

Lopez won the 100 breast (57.94) and added a third-place finish in the 200 individual medley.

An injured Danny Nguyen finished fifth in the 100 butterfly while Conor Sweeney gave the Broncos a runner-up finish in the 500 freestyle (4:38.10).

Parkview opened the meet by winning the 200 medley relay in 1:37.88, thanks to a blistering first leg in the backstroke by Andrew Ruffing, who led off in 23.86 seconds. His lead was held by teammates Steven Jones, Jason Rogers and Collin Burchins for a state title.

Ruffing also broke the established state record in the 100 butterfly but finished second as Kennesaw Mountain's Michael Arnold took it even lower for first place. Ruffing finished in 49.57 while Arnold was just ahead at 49.28. Ruffing later delivered with a state title in the 100 backstroke in an automatic All-American time of 51.32.

It wasn't quite enough to hold off Brookwood.

"I thought our guys swam great, they were really competitive," Gayle said of his Parkview boys.

"The Brookwood guys, they really wanted it. They stepped up."

Mill Creek's Zach Tillman became his school's first boys state swimming champion with a victory in the 500 free in 4:35.84, an automatic All-American time. He also had a third-place finish in the 200 free.

Tommy King of Peachtree Ridge was second in both the 200 free and the 100 free, while Norcross' Sean Bagent was third in the 500 free and Andrew Feeney was second in the 100 breast behind Lopez, who won his first state title.

That was a sweet feeling for the senior, and it was matched by Brookwood's team state title.

"It's the first time for the boys, so it feels great," Lopez said. "Every one on the team has been working for this all year.