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North Hall's Powers, area swimmers ready for state swim championships

Gainesville's Colin Monaghan the favorite in 100-yard breaststroke

POSTED: February 6, 2014 5:45 p.m.

Paul Powers is well aware that he still has a lot of competitive swimming ahead of him in his life. He has a four-year career at the University of Michigan, national championships, world championships and, potentially, the Olympics to look forward to in the coming years.

But first, the state’s top-ranked swimmer has his sights set on this weekend’s GHSA Swimming and Diving State Championships, which begin with the preliminary rounds today at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

“High school meets take off a lot of the pressure because they’re so friendly,” Powers said. “I know a lot of the people who will be competing from other schools because I’ve gotten to swim with them either through club or high school.”

The state meet gives Powers one final chance to put his stamp on the swimming landscape in Georgia, while allowing him a few more chances to win championships to add to his impressive resume.

Powers, 18, will look to defend his state championship in the 100-yard freestyle, while also looking to help the Trojans’ 200-yard freestyle team defend its championship from last year. He will also swim in the 100-yard backstroke.

“This is my last meet that I’ll ever get to swim in high school,” Powers said. “Knowing I get one more chance, it gives me an opportunity to kind of show what I have and show what talents I’ve been given.”

Powers is the favorite to win in every event, especially in the 100 freestyle. Last year, the then-junior posted a time of 44.02 seconds, which is 4½ seconds better than any other individual who has qualified for the event this year.

Altogether, North Hall will send eight swimmers to compete in this weekend’s event, five of whom will compete in individual events along with team relays. Among them is Ty Powers, Paul’s younger brother.

Ty Powers will compete in the 50 freestyle, an event he finished second in last year and an event where Paul currently holds the state record. He’ll also compete in the 100 breaststroke.

The favorite in the 100 breaststroke event is Gainesville’s Colin Monaghan, who broke the Hall County record in the event during the Hall County swim championships last month.
Monaghan will make his second straight appearance at the state meet and he enters with the fastest time among all state qualifiers. He also has the third best time in the 200 Individual Medley, just 2½ seconds behind top-seeded Gunnar Bentz of St. Pius X.

Fifty-two area swimmers who will compete in the state meet this weekend. The first challenge awaiting the swimmers is the preliminary round today. Competitors who finish in the top 16 of their respective events will go on to compete in the finals on Saturday.

It’s a two-day challenge that can be rigorous to even the best swimmers, but the rest between days does provide some reprieve rather than having to swim the preliminaries and finals in the same day.

“You see a better result when they get to do it the second day, rather than when they have to come back in the evening and do it,” Flowery Branch coach Valarie Lancaster said. “We see it in meets where the finals are the same day. You go back and the kids look like they have no interest in participating.

“But when they get to go home, rest up and try again, they come back pretty much fully charge.”

Fresh off a county championship, the Riverside Military boys will send six competitors to the state meet. While Eagles’ coach Marc Paglia admitted after winning the county title that his team probably lacks the depth needed to win a state championship, Riverside Military’s 400 freestyle relay team could be in a position to post a top-10 time.

Along with the relay team, the Eagles’ Kevin Reale enters the state meet with a top-10 time in the boys’ 200 freestyle. Lakeview Academy’s Michael Wingo will also compete in the event, and enters with the 12th-best time.

The Flowery Branch girls will send seven swimmers to the state meet, on the heels of a record sixth straight Hall County championship. While the Lady Falcons are the best in Hall County, they use the state meet to gauge their improvement each year when looking at some of the more experienced year-round swimmers.

“They do get a little bit of a confidence going in but they also look at their times and say, ‘We’re not the top dogs and we have a lot of work to do,’” Lancaster said. “This year, they are seeded the highest in a relay event than what they ever have been, so they are super excited about moving up and having a chance at Day 2.”


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