Photo: David McGregor Brookwood's Michael Trice is the Gwinnett Daily Post Swimmer of the Year after winning the state championship in the 50 meter freestyle and getting runner up in the 100 meter freestyle in the Class AAAAA state championships this year.
The opening relay of the state high school meet brought a familiar feeling for Greg Puckett.
As the 200-yard medley relay neared its completion, the Brookwood swimming and diving coach watched his relay trail by a small margin entering the final leg. With Michael Trice on the block, Puckett wasn't concerned at all.
As he's done throughout his career, the Bronco senior delivered for his coach. Trice led his medley relay to the state title with a stunning 50 freestyle leg of 19.79 seconds, well below the state high school record of 20.46 for the individual 50 free.
"There have been numerous times over (the past three seasons) that the competition had such a good lead going into the final leg that it didn't seem feasible that (Trice) would be able to catch them," Puckett said. "But to the amazement of those watching, often times he did. He seems to thrive on the hunt and the chase when he is anchoring those relays. It is those times when he finds himself a little behind the opponent that he always seems to have some sort of super-human sprint gear that he finds.
"I've definitely come to realize that you can never truly count him out until the race is officially over."
The thrilling relay finish was the highlight of the state meet for Trice, who also won the 50 free and was runner-up in the 100 free to earn Daily Post boys swimmer of the year honors. His 50 free first-place time was 20.48, just off the state mark, but it was plenty fast enough to lower his existing Brookwood and Gwinnett County records.
Trice also won county titles this season in the 100 and 50 free races, winning the latter race for the third straight year.
The amazing part of Trice's success during his high school career is that he hasn't been a year-round swimmer. His fast times are the product of his own work with his high school and summer league teams.
And his athletic talent doesn't hurt. Parkview coach Jack Gayle, introducing Trice at the county banquet this week, called the Brookwood standout the "most physically gifted" high school swimmer he's been around.
Trice's recent success has sparked a renewed interest in swimming. He's back to training year-round at SwimAtlanta for the first time since his freshman season and he's mulling over offers from a handful of Division I colleges.
He said the college interest has really picked up steam after his strong state meet.
"I started year-round after state," said Trice, who has a 90.262 classroom average and a 3.595 GPA. "After my success at state, I wanted to see how far I could take it. ... I was thinking about (college swimming) going into the state meet and after the state meet I decided I wanted to go to the next level and see what I could do with it."
Trice will leave behind a pretty impressive high school legacy.
In addition to his 50 free records, Trice has the second-fastest 100 free in school history and the third-fastest 100 free in county history. He has six top-10 finishes in his individual events the past three seasons and finally won his first individual state title this year in the 50 free.
But it's his time in the 200 medley relay, the ultra-fast 19.79, that drew the most response in the swimming community.
"Michael tends to be a relatively quiet, laid-back individual at practice and at meets, but once he gets on the starting block that competitive nature comes out," Puckett said. "For the past couple of years having him as an anchor on the relays has been a tremendous asset."
Trice's graduation leaves a void, but he said he'll miss high school swimming, too. Unlike many high-level swimmers who have separate practices from their high school teams, he trained with Puckett, assistant Meredith Hill and the rest of his teammates at regular high school practices.
"High school swimming was fun," Trice said. "I'll definitely miss it. I'll miss all the teammates I've grown close to the last four years."