Washington boys place fifth at swimming state championships

Published 3:31 pm Monday, February 16, 2015

DAVID CUCCHIARA | DAILY NEWS RESPECTABLE FINISH: The Washington swim team poses for a picture after the state championship last weekend.

RESPECTABLE FINISH: The Washington swim team poses for a picture after the state championship last weekend.

CARY — For the second-consecutive February, the dependable top performers on the young but experienced Washington boys’ swim team made their mark at the NCHSAA 2-A State Championships at the Triangle Aquatic Center.

Swimming powerhouse Raleigh Charter won its fifth-straight team championship, mostly due to the extra points its arsenal of talented divers provided. Other championship regulars like N.C. Science and Math and Lincoln Charter secured top five finishes. However, the Pam Pack boys, who didn’t have any divers competing, took fifth place (169 points) out of the 35 teams represented — the highest finish in program history.

“I could not have asked for anything more from these guys,” said head coach Spencer Pake. “They swam their hearts out and it shows. I knew at the beginning of the season that this team had the potential to be a top-five team in the state and that is now a reality.”

After a strong performance in the eastern regional meet, Pake went into the weekend believing his teams could perform against some of the best swimmers in the state, while also placing much of the pressure on himself to make sure both the boys and girls were ready. The Pam Pack spent the week between states and regionals holding low-stress practices meant to keep the swimmers loose but rested.

The Washington girls’ had a less-than impressive 21st-place finish (27 points), as the 200-yard freestyle relay was disqualified, the 200-yard freestyle team took 19th place and the 400-yard freestyle relay finished in 17th place. But Megan Baldwin, a senior who has been Pake’s top performer on the girls’ side for the last two seasons, stepped up with a time of 24.74 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle, which was good enough for sixth-place. She also notched fifth-place in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:09.59. Despite the relay struggles, Amy Arnold, Courtney Richards, Rylee Anderson and Sydney Harris were all state qualifiers and competed in the meet, a notable accomplishment in itself.

Sophomore standout Kevin Andrews was the top performer for the boys, taking seconds place in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 53.52, breaking the Washington school record that he had previously held. Andrews also placed seventh in the 200-yard individual medley.

Eric Lovenberg’s 1:49.56 mark in the 200-yard freestyle and 1:01.67 time in the 100-yard breaststroke were both school records and good enough for fifth place overall, respectively. His brother Tony also had an impressive day, finishing ninth in the 200-yard IM. His time of 5:10.31 in the 500-yard freestyle, which earned him a 10th-place finish, was a new team record.

Justin Clark, competing in the 100-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke, and A.J. Howard swimming in the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard fly, also qualified and swam individually for Washington.

But as a unit, Clark, Howard, Andrews Tony and Eric Lovenberg and Mason Beach rewrote the record books in the three relays Washington competed in. The Pam Pack boys finished seventh in the 200-yard medley relay (1:44.35), sixth in the 200-yard freestyle relay (1:32.83) and third in the 400-yard freestyle relay (3:19.41).

Pake has seen his team improve its standing not only through this season, but also through the last few years.

“As far as the season goes, I am proud of this team for overcoming adversity this season,” he said. “Missing a month of practice with pool issues put a damper on the season, but they really worked hard the last month to get back into championship shape. This is still a relatively young team with great talent. The future looks really bright.”