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January 18, 2014

Dalton swimming claims boys team crown, but Lady Colts’ Stafford makes history

Dalton High School’s boys swimming and diving team did what it has done many times before — won the North Georgia Regionals.

Kathryn Stafford did something that has never been done before at Coahulla Creek.

The Lady Colts junior qualified for next month’s GHSA Class A-5A state swimming meet in Atlanta with a first-place finish in the 100-yard backstroke Saturday at Dalton’s annual invitational meet. She finished in 1 minute, 4.29 seconds, the junior’s personal best for the event and a milestone for the 2-year-old Coahulla Creek swimming program.

“I didn’t expect to see a 1:04 on the board,” Stafford said. “On the last lap, I thought everyone was way in front of me or way behind me. It feels great. I felt like I was going slower than I was.”

In team results, Dalton’s boys earned 198 points to defeat second-place Holy Innocents’ 180 and the rest of the 16-team field.

Rome (142) finished third, followed by Pace Academy (93), Cam-bridge (92), Rockdale County (89), Heritage-Catoosa (44), Woodland-Bartow (36), Adairsville (35), Haber-sham Central (25), Northwest Whit-field (21), Ringgold (19), Jefferson (18), Calhoun (18), Blessed Trinity (16), Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe (15) and Coahulla Creek (6).

In girls competition, Blessed Trinity (199) won, with Rome (172) in second and Cambridge (171) third.

Jefferson (105) finished fourth, followed by Woodland (75), Pace Academy (67), Dalton (64), Rockdale County (41), Northwest (25), Adairsville (21), Cass (15), Coahulla Creek (14) and Habersham Central (7).

Stafford shaved more than three seconds off her time of 1:07.35 from the preliminaries, where she finished third to enter the “A” final with the fastest six swimmers. A member of last year’s inaugural Coahulla Creek team, coach Todd Gas noted Stafford as possibly the best swimmer even before the Colts and Lady Colts ever competed.

He was happy to see her finally qualify for state and give the program a boost.

“She just swam out of her mind,” Gas said. “We’re so happy. She has been working her tail off. ... It’s just exciting to have our program go to that level and to have a swimmer know what it’s like (to go to state).”

While teams have a few meets left to qualify for the state meet starting Feb. 6, this year’s North Georgia Regionals also was about re-establishing dominance for the Dalton boys. Last season, the Catamounts won the Class A-5A boys title for the program’s second state championship.

This year, after the graduation of seven-time individual winner Taylor Dale and three-time champion Person Scarborough, Dalton hasn’t been invincible. The Cats lost 88-81 on Tuesday at Rome.

But they led throughout Saturday’s finals.

“That (loss to Rome) was both humbling and motivating,” said Dalton’s Ethan Young, who broke North Georgia Regionals records with wins in the 200 freestyle (1:45.49) and 100 butterfly (50.79). “It shows the younger kids that, yes, we won state but can still be beaten. From that aspect, we’re trying to use that a motivation going into state.”

Young also joined Taylor Mathis, Austin Richard and Tanner Storey in Dalton’s victorious 200 medley relay (1:41.72) and Sean Lee, Mathis and Alan Trejo in the winning 400 freestyle relay (3:22.80). Mathis won the 50 freestyle (22.26) and 100 backstroke (52.85).

Northwest didn’t have any individual winners but coach Mart Hannah was happy with the team’s performance.

“A lot of our swimmers cut down on their times,” Hannah said. “We had a lot of people (five) qualify for the finals here.”

Lane Bramble broke two Northwest records with swims in the 200 freestyle (2:07.84) and 500 freestyle (5:49.90).

While he didn’t make Saturday’s finals, Gas said Alex Jarjoura 24.82 in the 50 freestyle was his best and another bright spot for Coahulla Creek.

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