Colin Monaghan and Ty Powers closed their high school careers in style.
Each won a state championship and finished second in another race in the GHSA 1A-5A meet Feb. 7 at Georgia Tech. With those goals met, the Hall County swimmers and training partners figure to remain linked for quite some time while chasing even more ambitious goals.
Monaghan, a Gainesville High senior, and Powers, a North Hall senior, will both begin their college swimming at Southeastern Conference schools in the fall. Monaghan is University of Georgia-bound, with Powers headed to the University of Tennessee.
Their paths will cross both inside and outside the pool. Both breaststrokers, they could face off in dual meets, SEC championships and NCAA competition.
One non-swimming event is already marked on the calendar: Monaghan will visit Powers the weekend of the Oct. 10 Georgia-Tennessee football game.
“Even though we’re going four hours apart, different directions, I think we’re still going to be really good friends and race each other, keep in contact, stuff like that,” Powers said. “It’ll be a lot of fun. It’ll be a lifelong friendship.”
Monaghan repeated as 100-yard breaststroke champion with a state-record time this February and was second in the 200 IM. Powers earned his second straight 50-yard freestyle title and took second in the 100 freestyle. For their efforts, they are The Times’ Boys Swimmers of the Year.
The pair of Hall County standard-setters this winter first met back in seventh grade. At the time, Monaghan talked more to Paul Powers, Ty’s older brother who now swims for Michigan. The elder Powers was his competition then. All these years later, Monaghan and Ty Powers share a strong friendship and a competitive bond. They go to the movies, wakeboard and regularly hang out even when they’re not at Francis Meadows Aquatic Center training, Monaghan with Lanier Aquatics and Powers with Splash Aquatics.
Monaghan’s 100-yard breaststroke title in 2014 came in a race where Powers finished third.
“That’s kind of what pushes us, knowing that he’s going to be there and I’m going to be there most of the time to race each other,” Powers said. “Only one person can get first. It’s really friendly competition.”
Both said the competition never veers from the friendly, though Monaghan conceded he would be the more likely culprit if that happened.
They know their success isn’t mutually exclusive, though.
“We’re both going to great schools swimming-wise and somewhere where we can both get substantially better,” Monaghan said. “That’s what I’m looking forward to is being one of those guys that goes into college and just starts dropping time like crazy.”
Monaghan and Powers each can trace their swimming starts to siblings in some way.
With Monaghan, who was home-schooled through seventh grade, his older brothers and sisters had swum for physical education credit before transitioning to competitive swimming. He began with swim lessons and was on a team before long.
Powers, meanwhile, had started swimming briefly while being home-schooled for half a year but had stopped for about a year. Paul Powers was his motivation to get back in the pool.
“My brother got pretty good at it, so I was like, ‘I can do anything he can do, but better,’” Ty Powers said. “Younger brother mentality. So I got back into it and just fell in love with the water.”
Sizing up each other’s strengths
As training partners and top-notch swimmers, Monaghan and Powers are well-equipped to evaluate each other’s swimming.
Both can see why the other has reached such great heights.
“What impresses me about Ty is really his ability to stay focused in different situations,” Monaghan said. “Especially when he gets into a racing situation, he can stay focused and just put his head down and focus on what he’s going to do, not against other people.”
Powers appreciated the compliment, but noted the one exception to that came during his state championship this February. He pointed to Monaghan’s tireless work ethic.
“Nobody trains like he does. I can’t,” Powers said. “I actually go over there sometimes in practice with him. Whenever he comes and practices with me, he smokes my butt in every single set just because he can have that ability to train and push himself and really just get that yardage and really that aerobic level that I don’t have that he can do.”
Monaghan also has a knack for walking around pumping up teammates and friends during meets.
“When he races, he just has a lot of fun with it,” Powers said. “We’re all serious about it, and if you don’t get your goals, you’re going to be kind of mad. But he’s always happy every meet he goes to, I swear, always has a smile on his face.”
Monaghan and Powers each hope to put themselves in contention for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Their more immediate goals in that pursuit are to earn Olympic Trials-qualifying times.
Monaghan will begin training with his fellow Georgia swimmers this summer in the school’s Olympic-size pool in hopes of qualifying this summer or next for the Trials. Getting there is what makes the bigger dreams possible.
“If things go well, then maybe finals at Olympic Trials,” Monaghan said. “And we’ll see where it goes from there.”
Powers said his college career is his focus, but the Olympics are a major part of his goals.
“A lot of people lose that as they grow older, but I think that’s one thing that’s always stuck with me is just seeing that in my future,” Powers said. “It’s going to take a lot of work, and it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. But I think if you really put the work into it, it’s going to pay itself out.”
It’s an ambitious aim, for sure, but Powers doesn’t back away from such talk.
“I speak for both of us,” Powers said. “It’s definitely in our future.”
It doesn’t take long to sense the camaraderie between Monaghan and Powers. Their easy rapport doesn’t suggest a rivalry. But that’s exactly what could unfold on major stages in SEC swimming over the next four years.
“I think Ty should have gone to Georgia because his parents are alumni. He should’ve gone there, should’ve looked,” Monaghan said with a laugh. “That’s a mistake he made.”
Powers, not one to let the moment pass, chimed in quickly.
“He had a trip planned for Tennessee, but then he canceled because he committed early,” Powers said. “So he never got a shot at Tennessee.”
They’ve ruled the pool in Hall County and Georgia. Now they’re jumping into a pair of top-10 SEC programs.