The Bartow County Championship swim meet offered up some familiarity in the form of tough competition and a winning coach ending up in the pool Saturday at Adairsville High. However, there were still …
The Bartow County Championship swim meet offered up some familiarity in the form of tough competition and a winning coach ending up in the pool Saturday at Adairsville High.
However, there were still clear signs that things aren't back to normal just because the calendar now reads 2021. Most notably, those examples included a limited crowd and the absence of arguably the best swimmer in the county due to COVID-19 protocols.
Even still, Adairsville's celebration at being crowned champions of the county didn't seem to be tempered whatsoever by the extenuating circumstances.
"I'm really proud," Tigers head coach Shawn Williams said following the tradition of the winning coach going for a celebratory swim. "This season has been messed up from the beginning. It's really hard to encourage young kids to do their best every day, because we're not promised the next meet, the next practice. They've really stepped up each meet and gotten better and better.
"Senior leadership has been huge. We've got Davis Hardin and Mallory Cook, who have been captains for a couple of years. They've worked really hard behind the scenes to keep everybody together and focused."
The Tigers easily outdistanced the other three local schools, finishing with 667 total points. Cartersville (480) placed runner-up; Cass (330) wound up third; and Woodland (264) was fourth. Adairsville finished first on the boys side with 347 points, and Cartersville led the girls with 320.
"I'm just blessed that we were able to have it," Cass head coach Danny Fairbanks said. "All the credit goes to the Bartow County board and the officials that allowed us to have it. It allowed us to have it safely, with limited fans.
"These kids deserve this type of situation this year with all of the hardships that have been happening. ... These kids deserve some fun, which is what this ended up being — a lot of fun, a lot of competition."
The Tigers thoroughly dominated, winning all but four individual events. Adairsville also took home all six relay titles.
Cook, Sam Pasley, Harper Powell and Josie Siniard teamed up win the 200 medley and 200 freestyle relays. In the girls 400 free, Pasley joined Jessie Early, Kayleigh Rice and Camille Woodall on the top team.
The boys likewise used the same four swimmers — Andy Barnett, Cooper Brown, Hardin and Scott Nguyen, in their case — for each of the 200 relays. The boys 400 relay consisted of Luke Altizer, Diego Carrillo, Alex Juarez and Landen Smrcina.
In individual competition, Cook won the 50- and 100-yard free events, while Siniard took home the 200 and 500 free titles. Meanwhile, Brown topped the podium in the 100 breaststroke and 200 individual medley.
Six other Tigers each finished first in one individual race: Altizer (500 free), Barnett (boys 100 back), Juarez (200 free), Nguyen (100 butterfly), Powell (girls 100 back) and Smircina (100 free).
"We don't get any complaints," Williams said, referring to having his swimmers compete in different events at county compared to other meets "We don't get anybody saying, 'I can't do it.' They're saying, 'Show me how.' That's the difference, for me."
On the girls side, Woodland's Emma Segars matched Brown, winning the 100 breaststroke and 200 IM. Her teammate Justin Guillemette placed first in the 50 free, finishing less than half a second off the state qualifying time.
"I was actually impressed with my team," Wildcats head coach Rebecca Beard-Arndt said, noting that 17 members of her team were absent Saturday. "We had a lot of PRs, and 99% of my team is newbies."
In her first season leading the program, Beard-Arndt has been unable to field a compete team for any meet, thus far. Regardless, she is pleased with the overall outlook of the program, which she said saw an increase from 11 swimmers last season to 35 this year.
"I'm only losing five seniors, and only two of them were there today," Beard Arndt said, looking ahead. "With that, this team has at least some kind of base next year, which I'm excited about. They know me, they know how I work, and they know what I expect."
Cartersville's lone champion was junior Mallory Long, who earned the top spot in one of the best races of the day. Competing in the 100 butterfly, Long edged out Pasley by 0.38 seconds.
"She didn't expect to do that," Canes co-head coach Emily Walker said of Long. "We're excited for her and what she has in store."
From a Cartersville perspective, Saturday could have been seen as a missed opportunity. Without seniors Giulia Vidoli and Micole Sy — the former of which has qualified for state in multiple events during her Canes career — Cartersville knew it likely wouldn't be able to keep pace in the overall standings.
But for the Canes to manage a first-place finish among the girls teams showed a deep group that stepped up when called upon.
"We are beyond proud of them," Walker said. "We're short two of our top point-scorers. Giulia Vidoli and Micole Sy were both contact traced at school and not able to attend the meet, along with two other girls. So we were missing four girls, two of them being seniors who generally win their events, and those two seniors are also both half of our 'A' relay."
In some ways, Walker and co-head coach Kim Rentz weren't surprised by their athletes' response to the situation. After all, this season has provided an abundance of adversity from Day 1 and even before that.
"We lost our practice facility this year due to the coronavirus, so our kids aren't practicing as a team," Walker said. "We're just immensely proud of what they've been able to do with the cards stacked against them."
Added Rentz, "We were grateful that we were allowed to have some parents and friends come watch today. I think being careful really served us well in being able to have a season."
The sentiment would have been echoed by those at any of the local schools.
Saturday's event looked and felt slightly different than its previous iterations. But by and large, the swimmers showed the same determination and enthusiasm as every other year.
"I think these kids have more resilience than us old people do," Fairbanks said. "They know how to have fun. They know how to compete. They know how to do it the right way.
"They made it a great time, and that's what it is all about."