ATHENS—It’s a tradition. As if scheduled by a social media planner months in advance, North Oconee High School’s swim team earned its sixth straight Clarke-Oconee Area Championship on Friday night.
The Titan Tide earned a total score of 371 points. The Lady Titan Tide won for the 11th straight season with 202 points. The closest competition was Oconee County High School who came in second with 172 points.
Karen Zhoa won the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1 minute and 55.70 seconds. Zhoa also won the 50-yard freestyle (24.70). The Lady Titan Tide’s 200-yard freestyle relay team of Brynn Halbach, Felicia Pursner, Abigail Weimer and Zhao earned a win (1:42.36).
Many of the same swimmers earn the Lady Titan Tide a win in the 400-yard freestyle relay (3:50.76) as well. Brynn Halbach, Ansley Halbach, Pursner and Zhao all took part in that victory. Halbach added an individual win in the 100-yard backstroke (1:01.07).
The boys’ won their fifth title in six years edging the Water Warriors 168-151. Gavin Jones’ wins in the 50-yard (22.69) and 100-yard freestyle (49.39) helped lead the way. Henry Logan won the 100-yard butterfly (57.75) and the 100-yard backstroke (54.30).
Jack Rossier earned a win in the 100-yard Breaststroke (1:04.19).
NOHS head coach Scott Burrell still doesn’t take being winning area titles for granted and he never expects them to happen until they do.
Heading into the 2019-2020 season Burrell knew the Titan Tide would be talented, but for the first time in a few years they were young. State champion and University of Georgia signee Charlie Logan had moved on to the collegiate level and there were more question marks than there has been in recent seasons.
Friday, Burrell walked away impressed with how quickly the youth in the program have learned to swim and compete through the pressure of maintaining a streak created far before their time in a NOHS uniform.
“It’s been a fantastic season,” Burrell said. “I really thought it was more of a rebuilding year. Hats off to Oconee, they have a really good team. I’m proud of our kids for stepping up at the end of a week. A lot of our events are on Saturdays. Friday night meets, you’ve got to mentally be ready and fight through that being tired of a whole week of school, studying and everything else that is going on.”
The streak continued fairly comfortably, but not without it’s drama. The meet was delayed nearly 30 minutes due to the scoreboard and timing system malfunctioning in Gabrielsen Natatorium. Times for the final events of the evening had to be kept by hand and entered manually.
The Malcom Bridge Middle School team won an area title on Friday night as well. Burrell was pleased to have the next generation be able to take part in the event as well as have some success. The last few years the middle school hasn’t been stocked with enough participants to have the impact they had on Friday night.
“It’s great to have them out here,” Burrell said. “We offer so many opportunities at the middle school athletically and academically that sometimes we got some kids swimming that don’t participate in junior varsity. This year it was nice to have a core group. They didn’t have a lot of meets, but we got some talent there, which is a great sign for the future.”