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10 in a row for Salem
Seminoles edge tough competition; Rockdale takes girls title

CONYERS - The competition at the 2008 Rockdale County Swimming Championship was as good as advertised as the three high schools battled in one of the most tightly contested county meets in history.

Forty-three points separated all three teams, but it was Salem that captured the title on Saturday at Johnson Park.

Salem took the top spot with 402 points, edging Rockdale (375) and Heritage (359).

Salem finished first on the boys side with an impressive 260 points. Meanwhile, the Lady Bulldogs won their first county trophy in school history, finishing first on the girls side with 221 points.

The win was a milestone for Salem's program - it's 10 straight county championship - completing a decade of dominance in the pool.

"It is a little overwhelming. We were obviously very nervous," Salem swim coach Lisa Boyd said. "We knew it was going to be incredibly close. We definitely needed the best efforts from everyone and the kids really pitched in. We were very much a team and I'm proud of their efforts."

Salem swimmer Matthew Tibbetts added to Boyd's comments, saying the win was the result of a team effort.

"I thought the whole team did a really good job," he said. "Everybody looked pretty confident out there today."

Six swimmers and two relay teams topped meet records on the day.

"All three schools broke meet records," Boyd said. "Most of the records that fell were from the 2002 season which was the last time there was such strong competition. We had a lot of records tumble this time because of the high level of competition."

Tibbetts broke the county record in the boys 200-yard individual medley (IM) in 2 minutes, 11.73 seconds. The mark eclipsed the old time of 2:12.53 set back in 2002.

Heritage's Kate Baize (28.24) and Anna Mattingly (29.01), and Salem's Erin Knowles (29.03) all broke the girls 50 freestyle time of 29.73 set back in 2001.

Salem and Heritage also had both boys 200 free relay teams break meet records. The Salem boys 200 free relay team, which consists of Logan Gunzenhauser, Joseph Schneider, Tibbetts and Taylor Horton crashed the old meet record of 1:38.59 with a time of 1:36.58. However, Heritage's 200 free relay team of Nathaniel Eisenman, Dylan Johnson, Brad Hardin and Matt Shamp took the top spot with a new meet record time of 1:35.28.

Eisenman also set a meet record in the boys 50 freestyle with a time of 22.64.

Rockdale's Lauren Troxler set a new meet record in the girls 100 freestyle with a time of 58.52.

Rockdale coach Stephen Sansing said he was pleased to see his girls team earn it first county win in school history.

"We were so excited to finally have our name on the trophy. That was one of our goals coming into the season," he said. "We finished second on the boys side and came so close to winning that overall championship. I think we lost by 27 points. Still, it was a great meet and we're looking forward to making up those 27 points next year."

Individually, all three schools had swimmers who won in multiple events. Heritage and Rockdale each had two swimmers win multiple events.

Heritage's Eisenman won in the boys 50 freestyle (22.64) and boys 100 freestyle (51.24), and Kat Baize won in the girls 50 freestyle (28.24) and the girls 200 freestyle (2:20.29).

Rockdale's Troxler took the top spot in the girls 100 backstroke (1:05.92) and the girls 100 freestyle (58.52), and Melanie Wright won the girls 500 freestyle (6:28.59) and the girls 200 IM (2:36.71).

Salem's Tibbetts won in the boys 200 IM (2:11.73) and the boys 100 breaststroke (1:06.89).

The next step for many of the top swimmers is the state meet which begins Feb. 8.

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