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Titans have solid showing at swimming regionals

By Jay Spivey
For the Clemmons Courier

High school swimming and diving regionals were held across North Carolina last weekend, and West Forsyth went to Huntersville on Sunday for NCHSAA Class 4-A West Regional in hopes of putting a stamp on a great season.

Although the boys finished fourth, the Titans were one point short of third place at Huntersville Family Fitness and Aquatics Center. However, the Titans had four boys qualify for Saturday’s NCHSAA Class 4-A state championship at the Triangle Aquatic Center in Cary. The girls didn’t fare as well as the boys did for West Forsyth, but they did finish ninth, two spots better than last season.

According to fourth-year Coach Sandy Thomerson of Titans, it came down to the relays for the boys.

“Two of our boys relay didn’t make states, and we were pretty sure at least one of those two…” she said. “So of three relays for boys only one is going to states.”

The 200-yard medley relay team of junior Logan McDonald, senior Patrick McKenna, junior Leighton Jones and junior Alex Valliere finished 1:37.74 in the regional and finished second behind the team from South Mecklenburg, which finished 1:36.25. The West Forsyth boys finished sixth in the 200-yard free relay and fifth in the 400-yard free relay.

“The difference is probably partly that a lot of the Charlotte schools, that their season was cut short for a moment (because of COVID-19), their times dropped by like 10, 15 seconds each,” Thomerson said. “Like it almost a fake seeding because of — it was unbelievable the difference —whereas as our kids swam their brains out through the season because they needed those to qualify.”

Charlotte-Mecklenburg County Schools decided to pause its athletic seasons in each school on Jan. 14. Originally the pause was supposed to be until Feb. 15, which would’ve meant that swim teams wouldn’t have been able to swim in the regionals or state meets. However, the school system announced last week that teams could return.

Thomerson isn’t upset about the decision.

“It makes it more fair because it would’ve made it kind of crappy saying, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m the second-place person,’ or ‘(Heck), I would’ve won,” she said.

“And yet it wouldn’t truly be winning because those schools are so good. So we’re glad they’re participating, by all means. It’s just so hard when you can only submit — the top three make it to states. That’s it. Whereas it’s normally eight. It’s a huge dip. You’re not even at 50% there.”

McDonald finished second in the 200 IM and third in the 100 back.

“He’s the one that pulled out the 400-free relay at conference to beat Reynolds by the skin of our nose,” Thomerson said. “And that’s being behind by a body length and him catching up. It was amazing. So he’s had an outstanding year.”

Valliere, despite finishing fourth in the 50 free, qualified for the state meet.

Despite just coming up short for qualifying the team for the state meet the Titans had a great season, and still have four boys swimming in the state championship on Saturday. The boys defended its Central Piedmont 4-A title in January.

“This season’s been great,” Thomerson said. “We had a repeat. The boys have won two years of conference. We were happy that we’re even getting to swim. You know, there are a lot of places that aren’t swimming.

“We don’t quite have the representation at states that we had anticipated. However, the boys swam really well The medley relay is going to do really well, I feel like at states.”

One thing that made it harder on the teams was that the NCHSAA split the regional so that the girls was early in the afternoon and the boys swam later on Sunday. That was to keep the amount of people on the pool deck to a minimum. Also, since everybody had to wear masks, and the swimmers had to wear masks until the got on the starting block, it made for a surreal experience.

“It was drastically different,” Thomerson said. “You could go on to NCHSAA (website), I don’t know if they kept the recording of it, but it is the quietest thing I’ve heard in my life,” Thomerson said. “Like I’ve never been to a swim meet like this. It was eerie.”

Although boys and girls teams from across the state will be swimming together on Saturday in the state meet, which will be a change from the regionals, West Forsyth will send four boys. There will be no time trials and each even will go straight to the final.

“They’re used to prelims and finals,” Thomerson said. “It won’t be circle-seeded. It will be regular-seeded and everybody will be swimming at the same time.”

As for the girls team for the Titans, no swimmer qualified for the state meet, but they did improve from last season.

The 200 medley relay team finished eighth, Audrey Frondoza finished sixth in the 100-yard butterfly and 11th in the 100 back, Shelby McChesney was eighth in the 100 free and 11th in the 200 free, Kelly Smith was 12th in the 100 breast, the 200-free relay team was 11th, and the 400 free relay team was 10th.

“The girls are young,” Thomerson said, “The girls — they swam well. We have a few young standouts, that’s for sure.”

The Titans have plenty of building blocks for next season.

“Audrey Frondoza is only a sophomore. She did very well. She didn’t qualify states, but she did best times,” Thomerson said. Shelby McChesney is going to be a senior next year, so it will be her last year next year. She always scores points for us too.

“And I’m supposed to have like five young ladies come up as freshmen next year, so we’re hopeful for the girls next year.”

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