ATLANTA — As if Paul Powers hadn’t already captivated the Georgia high school swimming community, the North Hall junior’s performance at the GHSA State Swimming and Diving Championships on Saturday at Georgia Tech was more prolific than ever.
Powers won state titles in the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle, becoming the first Hall County swimmer to win multiple titles in a single state meet, then helped the Trojans top the podium again in the 200 freestyle relay with his record-setting 19.91-second opening leg of the event.
The defending 50-free champion set a state record in the event by recording 20 seconds during Friday’s qualifying, but couldn’t match it in Saturday’s finals with a time of 20.21.
All he needed was a little bit of support from his teammates in the relay event, and Powers was able to reach the sub-19-second goal he had been trying to obtain for more than a year, while helping North Hall win its first-ever relay event.
“It makes it like 10 times better, because everybody else is there with me,” Powers said. “It’s so much better, because everybody’s there with me, and they’re getting me jacked behind the block. They’re the ones who made me get the 19.”
Powers’ brother, Ty Powers, and relay teammates Bradley Brown and David Schofield rode the energy of the Paul Powers’ historic start, giving North Hall a first-place time of 1:27.48. The Trojans, who ended up fourth in the team standings with 144 points, finished three seconds ahead of second-place Marist.
Powers now turns his focus to going under the 19-second mark in the 50 free, a feat that has never been accomplished by a high school swimmer.
“It might not happen until college, but being the first high school swimmer to get 18 would be nice,” Powers said. “19 is a goal but it’s a short-term goal. You have to have goals beyond that 19.”
Powers’ closest competition of the day in any of his events may have been within his own family. Ty Powers challenged his older brother in the 50 freestyle but came up short, placing second at 20.8.
It was a personal-best for Ty Powers, who has never come closer to beating Paul.
“This was not more than a touch away,” North Hall coach Debby Duncan said. “These two boys are powerhouses. This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing you’re seeing.”
Paul Powers’ first-ever state title in the 100 freestyle came without nearly as much drama, as he cruised to the finish three seconds ahead of the second-place swimmer with a time of 44.49 seconds.
Like his 50 freestyle performance, the time was undesirable to Powers, who had set a state record at qualifying Friday with a time of 44.02. He faulted a pair of miscues on his second and third turns for the slower time.
“I was trying my best to make up as much ground as I could on those turns,” Powers said. “I knew it was going to be tough to get down to 43 with those turns.”
North Hall opened the day with a third-place finish in the 200 medley relay, made up of Paul Powers, Ty Powers, Brown and Schofield. Their time of 1:38.21 was good for second behind race winner Dalton and second-place St. Pius X.
Ty Powers’ finished fourth in the 100 breaststroke, his only race he competed in without his brother also in the pool. He recorded a time of 58.67 seconds and was one of five swimmers to finish within a second of each other in one of the closest races of the day.
Gainesville’s Colin Monaghan placed in the top four of his two meets, taking second in the 200 individual medley and fourth in the 100 butterfly.
The Red Elephants’ sophomore contended for first place in the 200 IM, leading after the first turn before being edged by Westminster’s Derek Cox on the final stretch. Cox finished in 1:52, while Monaghan touched less than a second later.
“I knew it would be a real tight race between me and Derek,” Monaghan said. “I was going to give him the race that everybody wanted.”
Chestatee finished 20th overall in the boys standings and was led by Tristan Taylor, who placed seventh in the 200 freestyle and 11th in the 100 backstroke. Jack Hene finished 13th in the 200 freestyle, and the relay team of Hene, Taylor, Luke Grater and Trace Austin finished 15th in the 200 medley relay and 14th in the 200 freestyle relay.
Riverside Military’s 200 freestyle relay team of Ian Blakeslee, Michael Hilton, Franklin Westerkamp and Skyler Toney placed 13th.
Buford, the only area team to send girls to state, placed 15th overall in the girls standings. Danielle Brooks led the Wolves by placing eighth in the 50 freestyle and 14th in the 100 freestyle. She joined Molly Moran, Libby Muret and Brittany Litke on the 200 freestyle relay to finish eighth and the 400 freestyle relay to finish 16th.
Litke finished 11th in the 100 backstroke.
Dalton won the Class A-AAAAA boys title by scoring 192 points, edging out Westminster by 19. The Westminster girls recorded 306 points to win a state title. Woodward Academy and Marist tied for second.