Photo: David McGregor . Jacob Portillo swims during the 7-8 year old backstroke for the Thunderbolts during the Gwinnett County Swim League County Championships on Sunday at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center in Atlanta.
After several close calls, the Thunderbolts Swim Team has finally climbed back to the top of the Gwinnett County Swim League.
After six runner-up finishes and three more third-place showings, the Thunderbolts claimed their first GCSL championship meet title in 10 years when they took the 2011 meet crown this past weekend at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center in Atlanta.
The Thunderbolts, who compete out of Olde Savannah Square subdivision in Suwanee and draw from surrounding neighborhoods in Duluth, rolled up 1,617.83 points to dethrone two-time defending champion Chateau Elan, which came in second with 1,552 points.
Daniel Park was close behind in third with 1,510.5 points, while the Lansmoore Lasers (1,402) and Cedar Creek Stingrays (1,138.5) rounded out the top five. The fifth-place finish for the Stingrays was their highest ever.
"It was extremely rewarding," said Thunderbolts head coach Jim Reason of the team's title. "We've been patient. We've been swimming well in county meets and coming up short (in recent years). We were starting to wonder if we'd ever get another (championship). But we kept doing what we do each summer -- swimming hard and believing in ourselves. We felt like it was our time.
"I also want to congratulate Rick (Creed) at Chateau Elan and Kathy Janzen at Daniel Park. Their teams swam great meets, too. I also want to say how much we appreciate Olde Savannah Square. They opened their arms to us seven years ago, and we're proud to represent them and Duluth."
It turned out to be the Thunderbolts' time thanks to several strong performances by individuals and relay teams.
Leading the way was Luke Upchurch, who was the high-point award winner for the 15-18 boys age group with first-place finishes in the 50-yard backstroke, 100 individual medley and 50 butterfly.
Upchurch also teamed with Nelson Camacho, Michael Ragan and Anthony McMurry to win the 15-18 boys 200 freestyle relay in a new county-meet record time of 1:26.68.
Another big contributor for the Thunderbolts was Ashley Neas, who won the 25 breaststroke and 25 fly in 9-10 girls age group.
But it was a strong, deep team effort which was the main force behind the Thunderbolts' victory, according to Reason.
"We didn't have all that many first-place finishes, but we had a lot of top 10s," Reason said. "There were really three keys. One was our (coaching) staff did a wonderful job preparing the kids. Two was our relays did so well. They set some of their best times of the year. Those were such big points. And No. 3, our three big age groups -- the 9-10, 13-14 and 15-18 -- did so well. We counted on them to get us a big lead, so we could go out and just swim (on Sunday)."
In addition to the Thunderbolts' 15-18 boys 200 free relay team, there were 13 other new meet records set over the weekend.
Taylor Schick of Peachtree Corners/North Manor set three individual new records in the 15-18 girls division, winning the 50 free in 22.92, the 100 IM in 56.35 and the 100 free in 50 seconds flat.
Tristen Ulett of the Daniel Park Twisters had two individual new records in the 8-and-under girls division with her wins in the 25 breast (18.54) and 25 fly (15.30).
Also setting two new records was the quartet of Wesley Carter, Christopher Scalzi, Nathaniel Stoffle and Brett Reason of Cedar Creek, who did so in the 8-and-under boys 100 free relay (1:01.77) and 100 medley relay (1:14.60).
Other new records came from the Flowers Crossing 15-18 girls 200 freestyle relay team of Lydia Jones, Morgan Jones, Rachel Muller and Kelsey Gouge (1:36.47), the Flowers Crossing 200 medley relay team of Lydia Jones, Muller, Gouge and Elizabeth Garreau (1:48.89), Cedar Creek's 15-18 boys 200 medley relay team of Max Mitchell, Ricky Lehner, Geoff Carter and Nick White (1:37.32), Allison Carr of the Lansmoore Lasers in the 15-18 girls 50 breast (29.51), Ryenne Ulett of the Daniel Park Twisters in the 6-and-under girls 25 back (19.43) and Madeline Cohen of Flowers Crossing in the 11-12 girls 50 back (28.76).