Hanging on a wall at Dalton High School’s pool is a red banner honoring the 1993 boys state championship team.
Catamounts coach Charles Todd thinks it has lost its luster through the years, and he’d like to add a new one to spruce up the decor.
Dalton sends seven boys to the Georgia High School Association State Swimming and Diving championships for Class A-5A, which begin today at Georgia Tech and conclude Saturday. The Lady Cats have two representatives at the event, while Northwest Whitfield sends four boys and four girls. Preliminaries take place today, with the field being cut to 16 teams. The finals are Saturday.
The banner is the only one hanging for all to see, but Todd and his swimmers believe this year’s boys team has a great chance to win another state championship.
“It has faded so much over the years from the chlorine,” he said. “It’s kind of pink, so I need to get a new banner.”
While the team championship was out of reach last season, individuals still built their résumés. Taylor Dale won the 100-yard backstroke and 100 butterfly, Pierson Scarborough won the 100 breaststroke and both were on the 200 medley relay. The seniors will defend their titles in each event and lead a group that will compete in eight total events.
“If we’re going to win, I definitely need to win the breaststroke,” said Scarborough, who competes in the 50 freestyle and also the 400 freestyle relay with Dale, Taylor Mathis and Ethan Young. “We’re not ranked really high in the 400 freestyle relay, but we’re going to try and come out of the woodwork in that and surprise some people. ... I’m going to try and move up in the 50 freestyle and maybe not win but at least try and get us some points.”
It will be the same foursome for the 200 medley, which holds the No. 1 seed.
Others competing for the Dalton boys are: Mathis (100 butterfly, 100 backstroke); Young (100 butterfly, 100 backstroke); Alan Trejo (200 freestyle, 500 freestyle); Michael O’Brien (100 backstroke); Austin Richard (100 breaststroke); and O’Brien, Sam Reeves, Trejo and Chris Kazmierski (200 freestyle, 400 freestyle).
“If we could get some points out of those guys, like Michael on the 100 backstroke or Pierson on the 50 freestyle, that would be huge,” Todd said.
Some of the events where the Cats have multiple swimmers with the chance to earn team points — four swimmers in the 100 backstroke, three in the 100 butterfly and two in the 100 breaststroke — will be important as the squad tries to keep up with traditional powerhouses Marist and Westminster, Todd said. In the 100 backstroke, Dale is seeded first, Young is second, Mathis is fourth and O’Brien is 35th. In the 100 butterfly, Dale is seeded second, Young is third and Mathis is eighth.
That means Mathis, a junior, is an important piece to the championship puzzle. He’s part of both relays, which earn teams double points, and could be part of the three-Catamount podium sweep in the two individual events.
“Our 200 medley relay, it’s not a sure win, but we got it last year,” Mathis said. “Our crucial swims are getting the 400 freestyle relay and getting all of us high in the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly.”
For the girls, Nineve Arriola (100 backstroke) and Susan Meinders (diving) will try to bring home individual titles.
Northwest’s 200 freestyle relay team (Ellison Beard, Matthew Pipkin, Chandler Rickett and Triston Smith) returns for a fourth year. The Bruins also send Pipkin (50 freestyle, 100 freestyle) as the first Northwest individual qualified for state in two events. The Lady Bruins’ 200 freestyle relay (Marlee Bingham, Ana Hannah, Dala Hufstetler and Macie Maret) is the first individual or relay on the girls side to qualify.
“This year we broke 12 (team) records,” Northwest coach Marta Hannah said. “My goal for them is to beat their best times.”
The boys relay team did not advance beyond the preliminaries in the past three seasons, which means this year could include the first swimmer to make the second day. In the 100 freestyle, Pipkin is seeded 31st, the best seed of any Northwest swimmer.
“I know we won’t make top 16 in relays, maybe Matthew Pipkin will (as an individual),” coach Hannah said. “For us, a sixth-year program competing with 60- and 65-year programs, we’re really happy. We’ve really improved.”