Faulty start can’t deny GW sweep at swim regional

Chip Ellis
Charleston Catholic's Emily Sotomayor won the girls 100-yard breaststroke and finished second in the 200 individual medley.
HUNTINGTON - A great team is supposed to respond well in the face of adversity, and the George Washington swim team didn't have to wait long to try to clear a major speed bump Saturday.The GW boys 200-yard medley relay team was disqualified after a swimmer left the starting block too early in the first event of the Region 4 meet at Marshall, putting the Patriots - the defending state champion in the event - in an early hole.George Washington rebounded to take the boys, girls and combined titles at the regional and will send several swimmers to the state meet next Thursday and Friday in Morgantown."The day didn't start out well at all," GW coach Melissa Case said. "When you have the top relay seed in the state and you DQ it in your first event, it certainly makes the day tougher."But I'm under the philosophy that if it doesn't kill us, it makes us stronger. We've regrouped, we're hanging in there, a couple of the guys didn't have the swims they were hoping for, but a few of them have. So we're just carrying each other through it and we're going to be ready to go to Morgantown."The top four finishers in each individual event and top three in relays at the regionals advance to the state meet. Also, the next eight fastest individual times and next six fastest relays from the four regional meets around the state also qualify. (For results, see Page 2D.)The Patriots have won two of the last three state championships on the boys side and finished second in girls for three straight years prior to last season. Case's bunch should field a legitimate contender on both sides again this season after sweeping through local and regional events.Despite entering the region meet as a favorite, Case said she was extremely relieved when the meet ended."I feel absolutely better than I did 10 minutes ago," Case said at the meet's end. "Let's face it, I'm getting old and I have no idea what kind of shape my heart is in, but it was beating a mile a minute so I hope I've got a good ticker, that's all I can say." While GW was its normal solid, consistent self on Saturday, a number of other individuals had spectacular days.Both Charleston Catholic's Nate Carr (200 individual medley and 100 backstroke) and South Charleston's Austin Green (100 freestyle and 100 breaststroke) set two meet records in tying for first place with Capital's Tate Warden in the boys high-point standings.Warden took home wins in the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle and was part of a 200-medley relay team that benefited from GW's miscue and finished third, qualifying for states. After typically solid individual runs, the defending state champion in the 200 free and 100 butterfly was quick to compliment his teammates."My team today has performed tremendously," Warden said. "All my guys stepped up. Our 200 medley relay, we dropped four seconds. We got fourth but GW got disqualified so we snuck into third place, so that relay is going to states. Today I'm really focused on getting my relays to states and getting them into good position. All of my guys split ridiculously fast, a lifetime best basically. I'm really excited now and I'm just so happy with how my team is swimming."
On the girls side, Nitro's Megan Clemens enjoyed a good showing, picking up wins in the 200 freestyle and the 200 freestyle relay and finishing second in the 500 freestyle.Clemens finished second in the 200 free at last year's state meet and will look to pick up a win this time around.
"It's been pretty good, I've been working hard this year and I just want to do the best that I can and have fun," Clemens said. "I just want to go out hard and basically have fun while I'm swimming." While Clemens is trying to end her senior year with a bang, it's the future of girls swimming that seems to be shining brightest. Winfield freshman Madisyn Lyons and Hurricane sophomore Erika Poling tied for first in the girls high-point standings after each won two individual events.Poling was the feel-good story of the meet, earning wins in the 100 backstroke and 100 freestyle and leaving the event immediately after her last relay race to be with her sick grandfather in Philippi."They told me to do my best. I was just trying to block my mind and swim my race," Poling said. "I was a little off my best times, but I still got first so I'm happy. It means a lot because I train year-round and seeing my times go down makes me happy."It was a strong showing overall for the Redskins as Hurricane edged out Charleston Catholic for second in the overall standings, finishing fourth and third in the girls and boys team rankings, respectively."We've done really well this season, we've had a bunch of first and seconds," Hurricane coach Kathi Sharow said. "One more down, one to go."
Winfield and Nitro rounded out the top five in the combined team standings. In the girls standings, Winfield finished second, Nitro third and Cabell Midland fifth while in the boys Catholic was second, South Charleston fourth and Capital fifth.Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948 or ryan.pritt@wvgazette.com.    
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