NORCROSS — North Gwinnett’s boys made history last season with their first team title in the Gwinnett County Swimming and Diving Championships, and they showed Saturday it wasn’t a one-year flash.
The Bulldogs repeated as county champions at West Gwinnett Aquatic Center with 1,054.5 points to finish ahead of runner-up Parkview (958) and third-place Brookwood (939.5). Mill Creek (603) and Peachtree Ridge (589.5) rounded out the top five, followed by Collins Hill (570), Duluth (442), Norcross (357), Lanier (284) and Mountain View (270) in the top 10 of the event, held without fans at West Gwinnett Aquatic Center because of the lingering COVID-19 pandemic.
“We want to prove (last year’s) not a fluke,” North head coach Paul Callis said. “We weren’t just showing up last year and going away. We don’t plan to go away for awhile. So winning a second one was almost sweeter than the first. Last year we won with depth. This year we’re winning with depth as well, but I think our kids want to win with more than depth. They want to win with podium finishes. They proved that today with getting two first-place relays, winning the diving, winning the 100 free, getting a bunch of second and third places and podium finishes. That’s what we’re going to have to do at state. Our depth is good. But our goal this year is to have depth and top-tier performances.”
North, which followed up last year’s county title with its first state championship, opened the meet with a victory in the 200-yard medley relay in 1 minute, 33.91 seconds with the foursome of Blake Burnley, Emilio Rico, Ayden Meierarend and Luke Han. Han also was county champion in the 100 freestyle in 46.26, and added a runner-up finish in the 200 free.
The Bulldogs also won the 400 free relay in 3:08.14 with the team of Han, Burnley, Tristan DenBrok and Meierarend. They already entered the meet with a boost in scoring after Wednesday night’s diving championship from Nick Stark.
Burnley (second, 50 free and second, 100 backstroke), Meierarend (second, 200 IM and second, 100 butterfly), DenBrok (fourth, 200 free and third, 500 free), Ethan Whiting (second, 500 free and ninth, 200 free), Rico (sixth, 200 IM and sixth, 100 breaststroke), Ethan Reiser (sixth, 200 free and sixth, 500 free), Brennan Klingenberg (seventh, 50 free and ninth, 100 free), Nathan Han (ninth, 100 free and 10th, 50 free), Andrew Horn (seventh, 100 breast), Kyle Bak (eighth, 100 fly) and Tucker Callis (10th, 200 IM) also provided valuable points for North.
“I’m happy for all the teams and all the athletes to have this chance (because of COVID),” Paul Callis said. “I appreciate the parents, the coaches and everyone that sacrificed to get this meet to happen. We’re just thrilled it happened. We’re really fortunate we were able to get through the season fairly un-tattered, but we had our moments. It was tough, the toughest season anyone has had. But we’re proud of how we did. We’ve got a couple of weeks ahead of us, though. This year we’ve been focused a little more on that February date (of the state meet). We’re trying to learn about our team here and we’re just thrilled to win two in a row.”
While North won the team competition, Peachtree Ridge’s Tyler Schroeder and Lanier’s Jose Castro were the top individual performers with two county titles apiece. Schroeder won the 200 IM in 1:52.66 and the 100 fly in 50.35, while Castro won both distance free races — going 1:40.82 in the 200 free and 4:31.85 in the 500 free.
Norcross’ Preston Lin dominated in winning the 100 breaststroke in 56.33, and added a third-place swim in the 50 free in 21.89.
The boys meet was contested without Super Six swimmer Nate Stoffle, an Auburn recruit who is out under COVID-19 protocol but is expected back for state. Stoffle’s absence left third-place Brookwood without up to 72 points individually, assuming he won two events as predicted, not to mention the boost he would have given the Broncos’ relays.
Parkview took advantage and surged to a runner-up finish that included a first-place effort in the 200 free relay with the team of Dylan Yin, Joshua Kim, Thomas Wooldridge and Tyler Wooldridge. That foursome swam 1:27.30.
Yin won the 50 free in 21.21, and was third in the 100 fly, while Andy Zhu was county champ in the 100 back (52.49) and third in the 200 IM. Kim gave the Panthers a runner-up finish in the 100 breast and was sixth in the 50 free. Teammates Thomas Wooldridge (seventh, 200 free and fifth, 500 free), Tyler Wooldridge (fifth, 100 free and eighth, 200 free), Russell Hart (eighth, 200 IM and fourth, 100 breast) and William Eplett (ninth, 100 back) also were contributors.
Without Stoffle, Brookwood was led by Nolan Patterson (second, 100 free and fifth, 200 free), Matt Scalzi (third, 100 back and sixth, 100 fly), Graham Simmon (fifth, 200 IM and fifth, 100 breast), William Kusch (fourth, 100 free), Bryce Dopson (fifth, 100 back) and Chris Scalzi (fifth, 100 fly).
Fourth-place Mill Creek was paced by Daniel Roshka (third in both 100 free and 200 free), Will Skidmore (fourth in both 100 back and 500 free) and Will Pierce (fourth, 100 fly).
Schroeder sparked Peachtree Ridge to fifth along with teammate Max Pulliam, who was fourth in the 50 free. Lanier got a pair of top-five finishes from Noah Richardson (third in 100 breast, fourth in 200 IM), and Duluth’s Jackson Avey was fifth in the 50 free.