CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The George Washington boys swim team has really hit a groove in its past few trips to Morgantown, winning three state championships in four years -including two in a row - and finishing second in 2009.
The girls squad has offered a solid complement to the boys' success, but six runner-up finishes and no titles over the past eight years has left GW coach Melissa Case and her swimmers hungrier than ever.
A boys/girls sweep has only happened once (Fairmont Senior in 2006) since swimming championships began in 1999, and GW has that goal in mind as the state meet begins at 8:30 this morning in Morgantown with preliminary heats. The boys will compete in the early session while the girls will start at 4:30 p.m. The finals are set for Friday with boys and girls starting at the same time as today.
The George Washington girls will be looking for their first state championship since the school claimed back-to-back state titles in 2003 and 2004.
Case said that desire won't be the issue if her girls can't get over the hump.
"The girls are highly motivated to win a state championship," Case said. "Can we do it? We'll find out. If we can keep up doing what we're doing, we certainly have a shot and I like that idea."
Senior Anna Davis has experienced the bittersweet taste of second place twice already, and being one of only two seniors on the squad, is trying to lead a talented group of youngsters.
Davis said that while the boys squad has won the ultimate prize a few times recently, they offer encouragement to their female teammates.
"They're really supportive of us actually," Davis said. "They all high-five us and give us hugs."
"We're just like a family," freshman Jordyn O'Dell added.
O'Dell turned heads at the Region 4 meet in Huntington on Saturday by breaking a 13-year old record in the 100-yard backstroke by almost a full second.
Afterwards, O'Dell admitted she was a bit nervous about heading to the state meet for the first time, and undoubtedly those feelings will probably grow stronger right up until the event kicks off today.
Davis, who finished fifth in the 100 backstroke and sixth in the 50 freestyle at last year's state meet, said that while she would try to help her younger teammates prepare, even she would have some jitters today.
"There's always nerves," Davis said. "You just have to not think about it. But whenever you get into that pool and everyone's there, you're just blown away."
Most of the competition ends up blown away when GW's teams come calling. The Patriots have established themselves as one of the most consistent programs by any school in any sport over the past 10 years or so, but Case won't take much credit for what her teams have accomplished.
"To be honest, it's not anything I do," she said. "What I actually do is I try to convince them they can do it. Some of these kids don't need convincing because they are so motivated on their own. They're fast, they want to get faster, and they motivate each other. I just have to be there to facilitate that."
While George Washington gets most of the local limelight on a team level, several other area swimmers have excellent chances at either winning or defending state championships.
Madisyn Lyons of Winfield tied Davis for high point-honors at the Region 4 meet and is looking to break through in the 200 individual medley and 500 freestyle after finishing second in both of those events last year as a freshman.
Also on the girls side will be Charleston Catholic sophomore Morgan Carr, who set a Region 4 meet record in the 100 butterfly with a time of 58.98.
Her brother, Catholic senior Nate Carr, has already tasted success at the state meet after winning the 100 backstroke and 200 individual medley last year, and he will try to defend those titles over the next two days.
"There's lots of emotions because I'm going through my last time with all this stuff," Nate Carr said. "I want to make the most of the time I have left at Catholic because these guys have been great to me my whole high school career."
South Charleston's Austin Green will try to defend his 100 breaststroke championship while going after a 100 butterfly title.
Green also won the 100 freestyle title last year, but teammate Adam Poe will try to make it a repeat for the Black Eagles after winning the event at the Region 4 meet. Poe will also try to pick up a 50 freestyle title after winning that event at regionals.