Domination and parity defined the night Friday. At a packed Jamerson YMCA pool, as eight teams competed for Seminole District supremacy, the boys’ side of the championship swim meet was a battle from the start, while the girls’ results couldn’t have been more lopsided.
Within seconds, Jefferson Forest and Brookville slugged it out. The boys from Forest came out on top of the night’s first event — in one of the meet’s most closely contested races — and eventually held off the surging Bees for the title.
“I’m definitely really happy with it,” Jefferson Forest senior Connor Sauls said of his team’s performance.
The Cavaliers picked up the team championship Friday night — when all eight schools in the district, including Rustburg’s newly formed team, competed — with 197 points to Brookville’s 163.
Sauls helped the Cavaliers snatch up 18 points in the 200-yard medley relay, when he and Brendan Whitfield, Ben Hill and Ryan Learn touched the wall less than three-tenths of a second ahead of their newest rival, Brookville. The winning time of 1:41.80 also gave JF a new season best in the event.
The senior came out on top in each of the four events he swam, despite not competing in what he calls his best event, the 100 butterfly. In addition to his contribution in the night’s first relay, Sauls also joined Whitfield, Matt Murray and Patrick Crowder for a victory in the final event of the evening, the 400 free relay the Cavaliers won by 13 seconds.
In between, he added two other individual wins in the 200 free and 100 free.
“I wanted to have some fun tonight,” Sauls said, “and that’s what I’ve been doing. That’s all I can ask for.”
Sauls, of course, wasn’t the only standout swimmer Friday evening. Colby Childress and Daniel Pettyjohn bolstered Brookville’s performance in the boys meet, too, grabbing a pair of individual victories each and contributing to a winning 200 free relay.
In that race, the Bees trailed early, but snatched back the lead on Pettyjohn’s third leg and held off JF with a solid anchor leg from Childress.
“We just put a solid relay together to beat them,” Childress said of JF. “This is the closest we’ve been to beating them. They’re [Class] 4, we’re 3. For us to be able to compete with them [is great].”
The E.C. Glass girls, meanwhile, asserted their dominance with every trip up and down the lanes. Ten of the 11 of the girls events contested Friday went down as Hilltoppers wins.
Glass nearly doubled Jefferson Forest’s total output, finishing with 186 points to the second-place team’s 98. Brookville came in just behind that with 94 points for third place.
“It’s really exciting. This is definitely my favorite meet,” said Ellie Eckert, a Glass senior who has committed to swim next year at Division I Gardner-Webb. “Winning is fun, and when you have such a great team like ours, it makes it even more fun. We’re super supportive and cheering each other on.”
Like many of her teammates, Eckert ran — or swam — away from the competition. She was part of two winning relays, including a victorious 400 free relay quartet that capped the night by touching the wall 40 seconds ahead of anyone else. Eckert also won individual titles in the 200 free and 500 free events.
The other relay win happened just minutes after Eckert finished the 500, the longest race of the meet.
“That’s hard, yeah,” Eckert said of swimming those events in such quick succession, “but I’m the type of swimmer who needs a lot of warm-up to be able to sprint.
“I would rather sprint after swimming that hard instead of trying to sprint off being cold and just standing around.”
Eckert’s Glass teammates Joy Huyett and Rebecca Wigboldy also picked up a pair of individual wins and a pair of relay wins each.
“I feel like we’ve been strong all my four years of high school, but every year we just get better and better,” Eckert said. “More really good freshmen come on or people who are already here have kept improving.
“It just feels so good to have so many good girls on the team.”
Emily Brown covers the Hillcats, ODAC and high school sports for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5529.