Every season, the swim teams of Flowery Branch High choose a designated hashtag for their social media accounts to not only invigorate, but also remind the athletes what these programs stand for.
Falcons coach Valerie Lancaster likes to call this one a “decade of dominance.”
Only fitting for Flowery Branch, which celebrated its 10th-consecutive combined team title during Saturday’s Hall County High School swimming championships at the Frances Meadows Aquatic Center in Gainesville.
Despite an extremely limited evening practice schedule — three hours a week on top of a long commute to J.A. Walters Family YMCA in Gainesville — Flowery Branch continues to have a sustained success unmatched in the meet’s existence.
“It’s an impressive accomplishment, being able to put together a program that’s been able to compete each year, and grow and just … be positive in the pool and out of the pool,” Lancaster said.
The girls and boys teams of Flowery Branch totaled 464 points ahead of North Hall (438) and third-place Riverside Military Academy, which raked in 345 points despite fielding only a boys team.
Lancaster will also send three relay teams comprised of 11 swimmers (six boys, five girls) to next month’s state championship meet at Georgia Tech. Lucy Ballard led the individual efforts for the Flowery Branch girls with victories in the 200 freestyle (two minutes, 13.27 seconds) and 100 backstroke (1:07.93).
Yet the Lady Falcons still finished second in a tight race with North Hall, which claimed the first back-to-back Hall County titles in the program’s existence after tallying five victories and six top-three finishes on Saturday.
North Hall coach Kyle Frederick, who will see nine of his swimmers compete at the state level Feb. 1-3 in Atlanta, identified the 100 butterfly as the difference-maker for the Lady Trojans. For North Hall, Georgina Hoffman (1:15.05) took first in the race, followed by Laura Ware (1:25.34) in second and Rylie Galbraith in fourth.
Sophomores Julia Kelly and Will Crumpton made the biggest impact for North Hall to help the Trojans to second overall in the final combined standings. Kelly set meet records in the 100 freestyle (53.70) and 50 freestyle (24.51). Meanwhile, Crumpton dominated in the boys 100 free (49.23) and 50 free (22.31).
The Lady Trojans claimed the 200 freestyle and medley relays as well.
“We’ve done a good job of increasing the size of our team, had a lot of kids come out, and because of that we’re able to compete on a county level,” Frederick said. "Our goal was obviously to win the overall this year, but this just gives us something to keep building toward for next year.”
The Chestatee girls finished third behind Flowery Branch with 135 points and saw senior Lindsey Grater book her ticket to the state championship meet for the second-straight season. The University of Tampa signee recorded a pair of victories in the 500 freestyle (5:13.55) and the 200 individual medley (2:13.27), both times good for new county records.
On the boy’s side, Riverside Military built a 96-point margin of victory behind a win in the 200 free relay (Gage Fletcher, Garrett Dalley, Cameron Nedza, Ryan Little) on top of a bevy of second and third-place finishes. Dalley, Little, John Lavelle, Andrew Okingo, Cameron Nedza and Gage Fletcher will represent the Eagles at state.
Georgia Tech pledge Tanner Doan paced Gainesville, which won eight of 11 events to total 219 points for second place. Doan bested West Hall’s Michael Mahroum (1:03.16) by 11.16 seconds to win the boys 100 yard backstroke before setting a county record of 1:52.90 for a victory in the 200 yard individual medley. He then anchored the 400 free relay team (Adam Benefield, Spencer Summer, Calvin Chau, Doan) to a win, edging Riverside Military (Okingo, Nedza, Little, Dalley) by 3.31 seconds.