By Devin Golden
For the third straight summer, the Dalton Dolphins brought home a Chattanooga Area Swim League regular-season title by finishing first in the top-level Blue Division.
Now they have their sights set on doing something for the first time — winning back-to-back titles at the City Meet, the CASL’s postseason championship.
The meet, which includes all 15 teams from the three competition divisions in the CASL — Blue (top), Red (middle) and White (bottom) — is Friday and Saturday at Baylor School in Chattanooga. Competition begins each day at 8:30 a.m. with preliminary swims — younger swimmers first and older swimmers second — with finals at 6:30 each evening. Half the events will be Friday and half will be Saturday.
The Dolphins have won the City Meet just twice, last year and in 2006. Signal Mountain (Tenn.), the Dolphins’ biggest rival, has won it the other years since 2003. Dolphins coach Charles Todd said Signal Mountain’s Green Giants are one of the challengers to Dalton’s hopes for a second straight crown, along with the Ooltewah (Tenn.) Tidal Waves.
“Ooltewah matches up really strong against us,” Todd said. “In our dual meets, Ooltewah was close with us. They won the girls events and we won the boys events. I think they will be stacked up nice. Signal Mountain has fast boys and fast girls. Even though we won last year, I think Signal Mountain is the team to beat with their depth and speed.”
Having more swimmers than other teams has typically been an asset for the Green Giants in the postseason. In dual meets, only two swimmers earn points for a team in each event. But at the City Meet, up to 16 swimmers earn points and depth can be as important as good times.
One challenge most CASL teams face is having enough swimmers to travel to events because family vacations and other activities often conflict with the twice-weekly meet schedule as well as the postseason championship. Last year’s City Meet was held in Fort Oglethorpe, and Todd said the Dolphins had 87 swimmers entered. This year, he expects 89 to compete.
No matter how many of his teammates are there, Dolphins swimmer Austin McCanless, 16, thinks the City Meet title is his team’s for the taking.
“I feel like we still have a really good chance (to repeat),” McCanless said. “We still have Taylor Dale and Ethan Young.”
If the Dolphins win this weekend, those two names will likely play a big part, just as they did in leading Dalton High School to the Georgia High School Association Class A-5A state championship this past season.
Last summer, Dale competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials and won the 100-meter backstroke at the USA Swimming Speedo Junior National Championships. A University of Georgia signee, he won state titles in four events at this year’s GHSA Class A-5A state championship meet. Young was a two-event title winner at the state meet and also holds a national age-group record for 13-14 boys in the 200-yard backstroke with a time of 1 minute, 46.56 seconds.
But Dale — who as a college-bound swimmer is in his final summer with the Dolphins — is an “if” at this point after undergoing surgery Tuesday to relieve sinus problems stemming from the mononucleosis he suffered in February. Todd said Dale’s recovery time was estimated at three to five days.
“If he can swim, then we’re obviously a stronger team,” Todd said. “If he can’t, then I’m sure he’ll be there cheering us on.”
The Dolphins finished the regular season with a 430.5-318.5 victory Monday versus Stuart Heights to clinch the Blue Division championship, the sixth time in nine years they’ve claimed that title.
They finished 7-1 this season, and they made a giant leap toward the title on July 1 with a 411-357 victory against Signal Mountain, which entered the meet undefeated and had previously beaten the Dolphins. The win gave the Dolphins the head-to-head point-differential advantage if a tie occurred, and beating Stuart Heights assured them of no worse than a tie with Signal Mountain (7-1) at the top of the standings.
But like Signal Mountain, Ooltewah showed the ability to challenge the Dolphins in head-to-head competition this summer. Dalton topped the Tidal Waves 375.5-348.5 in the season opener but later eked out a 369-363 victory at Ooltewah.
“We barely beat them at their place,” Todd said.