County swimming deadlock
Collins Hill's Branford Rimbert and Mountain View's Daniel McCullough swim to their second straight tie at the Gwinnett County championship meet.
Collins Hill's Branford Rimbert and Mountain View's Daniel McCullough knew each other slightly before last weekend's Gwinnett County Swimming and Diving Championships, but they likely will be linked forever now thanks an odd occurrence at the competition.
The two swimmers attended Creekland Middle School together and had a few mutual friends, although that was the extent of their ties — at least until last Thursday.
Swimming in back-to-back heats in preliminaries (oddly in the same lane), they each posted a time of 22.98 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle. That time tied the two seniors for 10th place after prelims, which meant they had to swim off for the last spot in the "A" Final on Saturday night.
That's when things got weird because their tie-breaking swim didn't break the tie, either. They both lowered their previous 50 free time to exactly 22.74.
Two 50 free races and two exact times from the same two swimmers. Veteran officials at the meet said they couldn't remember a similar occurrence in the past.
"I was relieved I took off time (after the second tie) and then it was amazement," McCullough said. "It was like, 'Are we going to do this again?' I just did the 400 free relay and I was pretty tired."
They did have to swim the event a third time, but it was pushed back to Saturday and scheduled as the first race before finals began.
When the two went to class Friday, word had already spread about the identical races. Between coaches, families, friends and Twitter, a large number of people began to take interest in the outcome.
"When I got back to school on Friday, a lot of people were talking about it," Rimbert said. "A lot more people were talking to me. People who usually were not interested in swimming were talking to me."
That was the neat part of what happened between the two swimmers.
Suddenly, their third attempt in 50 free qualifying was the marquee race of the county finals. It kicked off the last day of the meet and everyone at the West Gwinnett Aquatic Center watched these two kids, who certainly couldn't have predicted that they would be in this situation.
All because of a pair of equal times.
"It was a great way to start the meet," Rimbert said. "I had my whole team there supporting me. … It was crazy. People were chanting my name. And not just for me, for Daniel too."
McCullough soaked up the same energy.
"It was almost better than the 'A' Final of the 50 free," McCullough said. "Everybody's eyes were on us. It got so quiet before the race. It was awesome."
Their final swim-off finally broke the tie, but hardly in decisive fashion.
Rimbert's 22.67 barely edged McCullough's 22.69. Everyone still had to look at the scoreboard to verify who won.
"I just congratulated him and told him he swam a good race," McCullough said. "We were so evenly matched it comes down to who has the better start or better turn. Obviously I was disappointed, but I was happy for him at the same time."
The result finally split up those two, sending Rimbert to the 'A' Final and dropping McCullough down as the top qualifier for the 'B' Final.
McCullough's result, of course, was another tie. His 23.06 in his final matched Peachtree Ridge's Brett Kester.
Rimbert swam 22.82 and finished 10th in the county, but the 'A' Final won't be his last memory from the meet. Not with all the hubbub involved in the 50 free qualifying.
"It was fun," Rimbert said. "All the support was great. I'm thankful for all my friends, coaches, family and anybody in the county who supported me."