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Trio of swimmers hope to build N.C. State program

Staff Photo: John Bohn Archer's Lydia Jones, left, Parkview's Geoffrey Carter and Brookwood swimmer Rachel Muller, right, have all committed to swim next season at N.C. State.

Staff Photo: John Bohn Archer's Lydia Jones, left, Parkview's Geoffrey Carter and Brookwood swimmer Rachel Muller, right, have all committed to swim next season at N.C. State.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Local Gwinnett swimmers Geoffrey Carter of Parkview, left, Lydia Jones of Archer, center, and Rachel Muller of Brookwood, right, have all committed to swim next season for N.C. State.

Their other choices included Texas A&M, the Naval Academy and TCU. And those were just the top of the lists. Trained by SwimAtlanta and competitors at the highest level of high school swimming in Georgia, these three had options when it came to college.

But after her visit, Rachel Muller couldn't get N.C. State out of her mind.

"How I made my decision was I always found myself thinking, 'I wonder what N.C. State is doing today. I wonder what the coaches or swimmers are doing.' It always came back to N.C. State," the Brookwood graduate said.

Lydia Jones, who helped build the Archer swim program, loved the idea of doing something similar in college.

"It was kind of cool to establish a foundation for that swim team. I really liked to be able to come to N.C. State where we are building up the girls program. I don't know. I like being one of those founding members I guess, who can set the standard. I have experience," she said.

Parkview swimmer Geoffrey Carter discovered the Wolfpack late in the process and bought into the goals of the program.

"Once I started talking to the coaches and some of the swimmers and realized they are going places, they are on the rise, I want to be a part of that. Even though they may not be the elite team now, that's where they are headed and that is one thing that I am looking forward to," Carter said.

The three are different swimmers. Muller races for distance, Jones sprints and Carter sticks to the breast stroke and the individual medley. They all placed in multiple races at the Class AAAAAA state meet and Carter celebrated a team title with his Panthers. From years in the pool and endless hours spent at SwimAtlanta, the three know each other and Jones and Muller visited Raleigh, N.C. together. Yet they all committed at different times, calling the choice their own.

"I remember I walked into practice one day and someone said (to Jones), 'Congratulations on committing,'" Muller said, weeks after she decided to join the Wolfpack. "And I was like, 'You committed? To where?' And she said, 'N.C. State.' I was like, 'You just made my day.''

As Carter weighed his options, he didn't consider N.C. State an option until Jones and Muller committed.

"Honestly, I didn't really know N.C. State existed until this year. I guess that says enough right there that it's obviously not that big of a school," said Carter, who spurned scholarship money from other schools to walk on at N.C. State. "I knew I wasn't going to find those coaches anywhere else. It was a risky decision to take, but that's where I want to be. It's not because of the money. Some people say it's because of the girls. It's not. It's the coaches."

All three talked about head coach Brendan Holloway and his staff as the deciding factor to swim for a school that finished fifth in both the men's and women's ACC Championships last year.

"I loved the coaching staff. They are really passionate about what they are doing and they are, relatively, new to the school," Jones said. "They had a clear vision of where they wanted to take the program and I really liked how concise (the plan was) and how they had it laid out of how they had steps laid out to how they were going to get to where they want to go. They really made me want to be a part of that, I guess. To kind of revamp the program."

Muller agreed. Just by showing up at SwimAtlanta and trying to entice swimmers of the program's caliber showed the Wolfpack's desire to compete.

"You can tell the kids that are there now that (the new staff) recruited are hungry and they want to get better and they want to win a championship," Muler said. "Recruiting us, it showed then, that now they are serious about this. They want to take the next step. The coaches are serious that they want to win a championship."