Water warriors
Swimmers chase titles at state meet

CONYERS - The pool at Westminster School with be filled with a host of Rockdale County swimmers today at the 2008 Georgia High School Swimming and Diving Championships.

All three county schools are sending swimmers to state with high hopes of advancing past tonight's preliminary round and on to to the finals on Saturday.

Salem is sending eight boys swimmers to state this year.

Matt Tibbetts qualified in the 200-yard individual medley (IM) and the 100 breaststroke. Logan Gunzenhauser also qualified in the 100 breaststroke. Carlisle Whitley qualified in the 50 freestyle.

Salem also qualified its 200 medley relay team (Josh Danforth, Tibbetts, Walker Whitley and Carlisle Whitley), the 200 free relay (Taylor Horton, Joseph Schneider, Gunzenhauser and Carlisle Whitley) and the 400 free relay (Horton, Matt Neisler, Tibbetts and Carlisle Whitley).

Salem swim coach Lisa Boyd said she's been pushing her in preparation for the state meet.

"To prepare for state competition, we trained aggressively Monday through Wednesday of last week and have been tapering since then, focusing more on techniques - especially relay starts and flip turns," Boyd said. "We hope to shave off as much time as possible through our precision so that we can return for Saturdays finals."

Lauren Troxler leads the Lady Bulldogs to state this year after qualifying in the 50 freestyle, the 100 freestyle and the 100 backstroke. She will only swim the 50 free at state because she is also swimming in three relays. Rockdale qualified its girls 200 medley relay (Troxler, Nicole Young, Melanie Wright and Miranda Wright), its girls 200 free relay (Melanie Wright, Patti Murphy, Miranda Wright and Troxler) and its girls 400 free relay team (Melanie Wright, Murphy, Miranda Wright and Troxler).

Rockdale coach Stephen Sansing said his team will have to swim its best times of the year if the Lady Bulldogs are to advance to finals on Saturday.

"You've got to make the top 16, which means in each event we've probably got to cut at least two seconds from our best times this year," Sansing said. "We worked real hard last week. We did a lot of resistance swimming and speed work. This week we're trying to make sure the little things are right for (today). They have really prepared, because last year we were kind of just happy to be there, this year we want to make it to Saturday.

"We will make the finals in at least one of the events. Rockdale has never had a swimmer or relay team make the top 16 and swim again on Saturday, and all the girls want to be the first. Two weeks ago, we won our first girls Conyers Championship in school history, so they have all the confidence that they can continue to set new marks."

Heritage also will be sending a crop of swimmers to state.

Nathaniel Eisenman qualified in both the 100 freestyle and the 50 freestyle, while Dylan Johnson qualified in the 100 breaststroke and the 50 freestyle.

Heritage also is sending two boys relays and one girls relay to state.

The Patriots boys relay team, which consists of Eisenman, Johnson, Matt Shamp and Brad Hardin, will compete in the 200 medley relay and the 200 free relay, while the Lady Patriots qualified in the girls 200 free relay (Kat Baize, Anna Mattingly, Rebecca Bradley and Abby Johnson).

Heritage coach Mike Talley is optimistic about his team's chances.

"We're hoping it's going to be long weekend," he said. "none of the coaches have made other plans on Saturday because we feel that we'll be coming back for the finals. I honestly believe we'll have at least one state champion."

Brandon Evans can be reached at brandon.evans@rockdalecitizen.com.