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Sam's the man: swimmer won at college and high school level
Former Gainesville High and Sam Morgan is one of the five athletes being inducted into the Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. - photo by For The Times
In an area dominated by high school football, basketball and baseball, Sam Morgan helped put competitive swimming in Northeast Georgia on the map.

After a decorated career at Gainesville High, the 2002 Red Elephant graduate moved on to Georgia Tech, where his accolades grew from the state level to the conference level, and ultimately, the national level.

Morgan, who spent years swimming for Lanier Aquatics, won’t have to leave the city where he honed his skills when he is inducted in the Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in August.

“It’s cool to be recognized for my athletic accomplishments,” Morgan said.

Morgan’s presence in swimming in the area can be traced back to when he was five years old, when he began swimming with the Gainesville Swim Team, today called Lanier Aquatics.

Under the supervision of coach Jim Young, Morgan began swimming at an advanced level and was named a Georgia Swimming All-Star from 1994-2002.

He eventually became a dominant force for Gainesville High, where he was a state champion in the 200-meter freestyle and 500-meter freestyle as a sophomore, as well as a top finisher his junior and senior years.

“In my senior year of high school swimming, they incorporated Class A through Class AAAAA into one meet,” Morgan said. “That year, I was third or fourth in both of those events.”

Morgan had immediate success at the college level, under the guidance of Yellow Jackets coach Stu Wilson. Under Wilson’s watch, Morgan became the first Yellow Jacket freshman to qualify for the NCAA Championships, competing in the mile and 500 freestyle.

“When I first came to Tech, I really didn’t have any preconceived notions about college swimming,” Morgan said. “I don’t even think I knew what the ACC was.”

He quickly found out. He become one of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s top swimmers over the next three years, making three more trips to the NCAA Championships and becoming the first Tech swimmer to compete at the national level four times. Along the way, he was a two-time All-American for his performance in the mile.

As a sophomore, Morgan set a Georgia Tech Aquatic Center record in the 1000 freestyle with a time of 9 minutes, 14.83 seconds. The record still stands today.

One year later, as a junior, he was named ACC Champion with a personal-best 14:54.71 in the mile.

“It was an awesome experience that I’ll remember forever,” Morgan said. “Stu was a great coach. He and I worked really well together. It showed with how much time I dropped my freshman year.”

After swimming competitively, Morgan began working in Georgia Tech’s Sports Information office as a photographer. His portfolio includes wide variety of subjects, including basketball, football and, of course, swimming.

“I really enjoy it,” Morgan said. “Something I wanted every athlete to have was multiple good shots of themselves.”

Morgan is also active in triathlons, which he began competing in last year. He training regimen includes practicing with current Yellow Jacket swimmers.

“I do triathlons because I can’t get away from sports,” Morgan said. “My first one went well, and after that I was hooked.”

The Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame is located in the Northeast Georgia History Center on the campus of Brenau University.

The History Center will recognize athletic excellence at a luncheon 11:30 a.m., Aug. 29, the Georgia Mountain Center in downtown Gainesville. Special guest speaker Damon Evans, athletic director for the University of Georgia, will help honor 15 Northeast Georgia Athletes and one highly successful team. There will be five retired athletes inducted into the Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. An additional “Elite 10” athletes, some of Northeast Georgia’s best athletes of the last 10 years.
Table sponsorships are available for $350, and table sponsors may choose to have their table host one of the athletes to be recognized on a first-come, first-served basis. A limited number of individual tickets are available for $25. Call the History Center at 770-297-5900 to make your reservations.
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