Archer's Smith shines at Clody Memorial Invitational

STONE MOUNTAIN — Lexie Smith wonders how fast she’d be if she hadn’t slacked off those few years.

Her training reinvigorated, the Archer swimmer is again blazing trails in the water.

Proof came at Saturday’s Clody Memorial Invitational at the Mountain Park Aquatic Center, where she won the 100-yard butterfly and 100 backstroke in state meet-qualifying times of 1:01.43 and 1:04.81, respectively. Already qualified for state in two other events, the freshman has achieved a state qualifying mark every time she’s splashed into the water.

“Once I first started training hard again, it was hard to start dropping my time, but I’ve started to again,” said Smith, a Swim Atlanta club swimmer. “I was surprised I went so fast with so little warm-up (at Clody).”

Smith, who’d made state cuts in the 200 medley (2:19.18) and 50 freestyle (25.65) in a previous dual meet against Shiloh and South Gwinnett, liked Saturday’s 100 butterfly performance best.

“I was consistent with my stroke,” she said. “I’ve been working hard in it and it’s paid off.”

Archer coach Pam Autrey senses big things in store for Smith, whose renewed resolve she considers uncommon.

“She’s very focused,” Autrey said. “She really wants it and wants to swim in college.”

Smith’s was among many success stories at Clody, a dual-venue showcase for schools’ nearly 1,000 second-echelon swimmers whose upper-echelon, club-level counterparts were at the United States Swimming’s state championships at Georgia Tech. Uniquely, the Clody meet isn’t scored, designed to informally allow swimmers to attempt events they typically couldn’t if club-level teammates were there.

While Parkview swimmers won 11 of 24 events in nine Region 8-AAAAA teams’ competition at Mountain Park, Brookwood’s boys, three-time defending AAAAA champions, had a pair of swimmers grab acclaim. Aaron Elwood captured a pair of seconds in the 100 butterfly (59.44) and 100 breaststroke (1:05.74), the latter qualifying for state. Austin Harmel, previously only a sprinter, tried his hand at the 500 and 200 freestyles and wound up seventh and eighth, respectively. He’d never raced farther than 100 yards, but wasn’t intimidated by the 20-lap 500.

“Finding my pace was the hardest thing,” he said. “I was kind of excited, actually.”

Dacula made its mark, too. Megan Heller, who came in already state qualified in four events, including 100 butterfly in a school-record 1:02.18, won the 200 medley in a state-qualifying 2:22.50.

Nathan Jones keyed Parkview’s dominance with wins in the 200 medley (2:14.96) and 100 breaststroke (1:03.23), the latter of which slimmed his previous state qualification. Panthers Rory Martin and Christina Rogers chipped in wins in the 100 backstroke and 200 freestyle, respectively.

In competition for nine Region 7-AAAAA teams at Norcross’ West Gwinnett Aquatic Center, Collins Hill’s Carl Anderson won the 50 and 100 freestyle in a state-qualifying 21.95 and 49.16, respectively. Collins Hill captured a meet-high eight swimming events, compared to North Gwinnett’s seven.

In diving at Mountain Park on Friday, Parkview’s Sean Piner, second at state last season, edged runner-up Hunter Ferrer of Dacula, 496.4-343.30, in the 11-dive competition. Grayson’s Darcie O’Brien was first among girls at 371.6. Peachtree Ridge’s Josh Marsh and South’s Olivia Olson won Friday’s six-dive competition with 160.45 and 170.75, respectively.