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Swimmers set for state meet
Riverside Military Academy’s Clay Thompson works out Wednesday afternoon in the school’s swimming pool as he a three other members of the school’s swim team prepare for this weekend’s state swim meet.

2009 GHSA state swim meet

Schedule: 5 p.m. today- Class AAAAA Prelims; 5 p.m. Friday- Class A-AAAA Prelims; 1 p.m. Saturday- Class AAAAA finals; 6 p.m. Saturday- Class A-AAAA finals

Where: Westminster School, Atlanta

Tickets: $7 per day, $10 for two days, $15 for all three days

Competing in a state swim meet is all too familiar for Riverside Military Academy. But this year will be different.

The Eagles have won five of the last six state swimming titles, including their third in a row last year, but those competitions were in the Georgia Independent Schools Association. This weekend will be the first time that Riverside takes to the pool in a GHSA state meet, and unlike year’s past, the team is not the favorite.

“We have quite the hill to climb,” Riverside coach Matt Paglia said. “This is a time where everyone swims their best and we’re going to do what we can to get in the top 16.”

During GISA state meets, the Eagles sent multiple swimmers to compete, but there will only be two Riverside entries at the GHSA state swim meet that begins Friday at Westminster in Atlanta.

“They understand that they’re a real underdog,” Paglia said. “My feeling is, from things I’ve heard from them, is that they only have one way to go and that’s up.”

Those swimmers are Lucas Inghilleri, Matt Gallaway, Clay Thompson and Josh Brown, who will swim the 200-yard freestyle relay for Riverside. Gallaway will also compete in the 100-yard breaststroke. Combined with Chestatee swimmer Sara Schwanke, who will compete in the 50 and 100 freestyle events, those five swimmers will be Hall County’s lone representatives at the meet.

“If we have a good showing, we’ll grow swimming in this county,” Paglia said. “I think it’s going to promote the sport.”

Schwanke is also familiar with swimming at the state level. Last year, the junior finished 24th in the 100-freestyle and 12th in the 50-freestyle and she hopes to improve on those marks this weekend.

“I want to place in the top 10,” said Schwanke, who qualified for five events but chose the 50 and 100-freestyle because those were her fastest times.

“I let her chose,” Chestatee coach Kristy Hane said. “I think those give her the best chance to make the finals.”

The field for the finals will be determined after Friday’s preliminaries, which have the Riverside relay team seeded 42nd, Gallaway 29th and Schwanke 13th in the 50 and 19th in the 100.

“She has a real good chance of finishing in the A finals or B finals,” Hane said.

Schwanke and the Eagles will have stiff competition at the state meet, as unlike every other sport, in swimming Class A-AAAA compete against each other. Only Class AAAAA has its own competition.

“We planned for that emotionally and physiologically,” Paglia said. “I knew what we’d be going up against when we moved to the GHSA.”

Hene knows that Schwanke has a chance to do well, no matter who the competition is.

“She has a lot of talent, she’s very gifted,” Hene said. “I’m glad to see her get the recognition at the high school level.”

A first-place finish would provide even more recognition.

“She could really help Chestatee’s program, and on a larger scale help Hall County grow the sport,” Hene said.

Regardless of how the meet turns out, the swimmers have been ready to compete on the state level all year.

“They’re gonna except this challenge,” Paglia said of his underdogs. “They’ve had their sights on it since the beginning of the season and I think they’re ready for it.”

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