By Devin Golden
ATLANTA — “Fifth or better.”
That’s what Dalton High School swimming and diving coach Charles Todd told his boys 400-yard freestyle relay team before it started the final event of Saturday’s Georgia High School Association Class A-5A State Swimming and Diving Championships at Georgia Tech.
Fifth or better, and the Catamounts would be state champions. Taylor Dale, Ethan Young, Pierson Scarborough and Taylor Mathis made it less complicated.
With a victory in the event, they solidified their legacies and clinched Dalton’s second swimming and diving team state championship. The previous title came in 1993.
Dalton won with 192 points. Westminster (173), Oconee County (154), North Hall (144), and St. Pius X (139) rounded out the top five.
Teams earned points based on how their relays and individuals finished. Those in the A final could earn anywhere from 11 to 20 points, and those in the B final could earn anywhere from one to nine points. For relays, the points were on the same scale but doubled.
Heading into the 400 freestyle relay, Dalton had 152 points, with North Hall’s 144 and Westminster’s 139 trailing. North Hall did not have a team in the final relay, and only Westminster could catch the Cats. If Dalton’s group finished fifth (for 28 team points) and Westminster won (40 team points), the Cats would still win by a single point.
“I just told them to ‘Kill it,’” Todd said. “That means keep it legal. If they keep it legal (and aren’t disqualified), we could win this whole meet. They didn’t go for a record.”
The group, which accounted for all of Dalton’s team points at the event, finished in 3 minutes, 10.83 seconds to win the relay title.
“We were all just like, ‘Fifth will win a state championship, but we want to go out on top and get first,” said Mathis, a junior.
Even though it was just those four earning points, 14 other team members cheered from the side and celebrated at the podium when the team received its trophy.
“These guys pumped us up,” Young said of his teammates. “I’ve represented Georgia; I’ve represented other teams. Never have I had a team atmosphere like this. And I really think that’s what made the difference.”
The same relay started Saturday’s finals with a record-setting swim. In the 200 medley, the foursome finished in 1:32.93, breaking the state meet record set a day before in the preliminaries. Dale also won the 100 butterfly (49.86 seconds) and 100 backstroke (49.11) to give him a 4-for-4 sweep of individual and relay titles
Last year, he won each of those events and was part of the state-title winning 200 medley relay. He has won seven state titles in his career.
“We came through and got an amazing title for an amazing coach,” Dale said.
Young finished second in both the 100 butterfly (50.49) and 100 backstroke (49.14), giving Dalton the top two finishers in each of those events and 68 team points. Mathis finished second in two B finals for the 100 butterfly (53.49) and 100 backstroke (53.90).
Scarborough finished sixth in the 100 breaststroke (59.49) and eighth in the 50 freestyle (22.04).