Lauren Wallace's toughest competition at the Southwestern 4A swim championships was her expectations.
The Ardrey Kell High freshman won her first titles in the girls' 200-yard medley and 500 freestyle Friday at a packed Mecklenburg Aquatic Center. She also swam on the winning 200 relay squad.
"Being a freshman it's always nerve-wracking," Wallacesaid. "You always want to help your team and push them to a higher standard. It's serious pressure being a freshman, but the team has always been so supportive of me. It just makes it more fun."
Wallace won the 200 medley in 2 minutes, 12.45 seconds, jumping to a quick lead on the butterfly segment - her slowest - and maintaining the pace as the field tried to catch up.
"I'm not especially a butterfly (specialist), so I try to stay with them and get as far ahead of them as I can on backstroke, so I can keep getting farther ahead," she said. "I've been practicing a lot and changing my stroke, so it's paying off."
Ardrey Kell won the girls' championship with 666 points, followed by Providence with 582. The rivals swapped results in the boys' competition, with Providence scoring 577 to Ardrey Kell's 520.
Wallace wasn't the only underclassman to excel. Independence sophomore Hunter Brakovec pulled off the meet's biggest upset by winning the boys' 500 freestyle in 4:42.22. Swimming in a heat that included N.C. State signee Ryan Wilkinson of Providence, Brakovec was still soaking it all in.
"I was just going out with him and trying to hold on and beat him," Brakovec said. "I guess it worked."
Brakovec, swimming in lane 5, matched Wilkinson over the first eight laps before puling ahead by a length by the 10th. After that, it was all Brakovec, followed by Providence's Austin Snyder at 4:47.16 and Mitchell Cooper of South Mecklenburg (4:47.32).
"I just felt good the whole time," Brakovec said. "It just worked for me. I wanted to start out strong and just keep it going the whole way. I wanted to be out with him at the 200 (mark) and keep going."
Wilkinson held off a spirited challenge by Ardrey Kell's Connor Long to win the 50 freestyle in 21.99. Providence teammate John Ferretti was third in 22.93.
"You really want to blast off at the start and the first three strokes or so is going to set the foundation for the whole 50," Wilkinson said.
"After that, you're pounding it out and whoever wants it more gets it."
It was Wilkinson, who used a strong start to get in front and outsprinted Long to the finish after a losing part of his advantage on the final turn.
I was pretty pleased with the start. It was the turn that destroyed me," Wilkinson said. "That was the weakest part of the race for me, so that's something I've got to work on in practice."