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Swimmers chasing a state title
North Hall's Powers enters championship with 4th best time in 50 freestyle
Flowery Branch High swimming team member Sean Bart swims the breast stroke during the team’s practice at the France Meadows Aquatic Center Wednesday afternoon in preparation for the upcoming state championship meet.

State meet
Local qualifiers

Chestatee: Ben Hassler, Cory Hene, Jack Hene, Rob Minor, 200 freestyle relay.

Flowery Branch: Zack Miller-Hogg, 100, 200, 200 and 400 freestyle relay; Sean Bart, 200 and 400 relay; Hudson Howard, 200 and 400 relay; Robbie Mix, 200 relay; Mark Faul, 400 relay.

Gainesville: Andy Doan, 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke; Riley Monaghan, 100 butterfly and 100 breaststroke; Doan, Monaghan, Omar Contreras and Daniel Whitson, 200 freestyle relay.

North Hall: Paul Powers, 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke; Margaret Schofield, 50 and 100 freestyle; Sydney Pereira, 50 and 100 freestyle.

Sean Bart has realistic expectations for Friday’s state swimming championships.

Bart, a senior at Flowery Branch High, simply wants to improve on last year’s performance in the 200- and 400-yard freestyle relay, the same two events he will compete in Friday at Georgia Tech. In 2010, the experience was dampened a bit when the 400 relay team was eventually disqualified for a false start.

Now, Bart is looking to be competitive and shave some time off the 1 minute, 38.21 second time that qualified Flowery Branch’s 200 relay team for state (38th best overall) and 3:44.90 in the 400 (42nd overall).

“We got a view of how competitive swimming is from last year and how much training it takes,” Bart said. “Now, we want to get redemption this year at state.”

Flowery Branch is not the only school representing Hall County in the state championships. In all, 16 local swimmers will be competing in individual and relay events.

North Hall freshman Paul Powers is the highest seeded swimmer in the Class A-AAAA bracket. His time in the 50 freestyle (22.05) was the fourth fastest in the state, only 1/4 seconds behind the state’s fastest time set by Robert Doles. Powers qualified with the 17th fastest time in the 100 backstroke (56.76).

The swimming programs in Hall County are still behind schools in the metro Atlanta area in terms of being competitive, since many of its swimmers compete year round. However, that hasn’t cut down on the anticipation for local athletes looking for making their best possible time.

Since claiming the Hall County championship three weeks ago, state qualifying swimmers from Flowery Branch have spent each afternoon working diligently on building their stamina and trying to put together the best race of their lives.

According to Falcons coach Valerie Lancaster, swimmers Bart, Zack Miller-Hogg, Hudson Howard, Robbie Mix and Mark Faul put in about two miles a day during practice going up and down the lanes at the Frances Meadows Aquatic Center.

“We’ve had a good three weeks of practice conditioning,” Lancaster said. “We’ve focused on technique and now that we’re getting later in the week, we’re starting to taper our distance.”

Gainesville’s Andy Doan (100 freestyle and 100 backstroke) and Riley Monaghan (100 butterfly and 100 breaststroke) are both making a return trip to the state championships this season. They’re eager to see how swimming at Georgia Tech adds to the atmosphere of the meet, as opposed to its past home at Westminster.

“I can’t wait to swim,” Monaghan said. “I want to get the ‘A’ finals in both races hopefully.”

“It’s really exciting getting ready for state,” Doan said. “I have my legs shaved, a new suit and I’m ready to swim.”

Although this is the first GHSA swimming meet for some, it’s not the first time swimming on a statewide stage. Flowery Branch’s Hudson Howard, a sophomore, has been to the state championships with his club team at Lanier Aquatics. At Friday’s state meet, he’ll swim the first leg of the 400 for Flowery Branch and also compete in the 200.

“This is my first trip to state and it’s going to be a whole new experience,” Howard said. “We’re going down there to get the best time possible.

“We’ve been working extremely hard as a team.”

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