The Charlotte Catholic girls swim team has dominated the state like no other team in any sport in the past 12 years, winning 12 straight state championships over two classifications.Coach Brian Gross and his team didnt just win another championship this year; they dominated the field, winning by 211 points over the closest competition (Marvin Ridge) at the 3A state meet. The Cougars set 13 school records, nine class 3A records and five all-classifications marks. The Cougars also won every stroke event in the meet except the 500-yard freestyle.Were always racing against somebody or something, said Gross, who has been the Catholic coach for all 12 championships. The girls havent lost a meet in that span. But we dont go into states saying were going to win 12 in a row. Every year is a new challenge with a new team dynamic. Each person on the team has a goal in mind to do their part. But in the end our goal is to do one thing bring home a state title.Sophomore Nora McCullagh, the 3A state meet MVP, led the way, winning all four events she swam, including the 50-yard freestyle, where she set an all-classification record with a 22.92 seconds, and the 100 backstroke. She also helped the 200 freestyle relay (with Allison McDonough, Maria Sheridan and Lauren Rhodes) and the 400 freestyle relay (with Nicole Emery, Elsa Welshofer, Rhodes) to titles in record-breaking fashion.Rhodes, a junior and last years state MVP, also won all four events she competed in: the 100- and 200-yard freestyle for the second straight year and the 200 and 400 free relays.Emery (200 individual medley state champion), sophomore Sara Stranick (100 breaststroke state champ), and Welshofer (100 butterfly state champion) also took home individual titles while another Catholic quartet (Emery, Stranic, Welshofer and Sheridan) won the 200 medley relay.Its really cool just to be part of such the great tradition that the Charlotte Catholic swim team has, McCullagh said. To win 12 titles in a row is a fun thing to talk about. Everybody wants to be a part of it and keep it going.Gross feels equally lucky to play his role on the team.The team we have now is a dream come true for any coach, said Gross, who swam at Wright State in college. We have all these great athletes, who train hard year round. They are also great student athletes. The state championships and the records are just icing on the cake. The Cougar boys just missed out on a state title, finishing as 3A state-runner-up to Cardinal Gibbons for the fourth year in a row. Catholics Matthew Rigali won the 100 breaststroke while also helping the 200 medley relay to a title with teammates Chris Wilson, William Webb and Ryan Hall. Next year will be a new challenge as Charlotte Catholic athletics move to class 4A.For the Catholic girls swim team, that means taking on 4A champion Hough and perennial powers like Ardrey Kell and Providence High.We are all excited to move up to 4A next year and take on some the best teams in the state, Sheridan said. I think its great thing for us. I think its going to be a blood bath with us and teams like Hough competing for a state title. We will have to rise to the competition and swim at a higher level. But were all looking forward to it. The Cougars beat 4A teams like Hough, Ronald Reagan and South Mecklenburg this year. Nearly all of the girls team returns next year. Allison McDonough (Boston College) is only state champion graduating. The Cougars will be the favorite to repeat.But with a new year and new challenge, Gross knows nothing is guaranteed.We dont talk a lot about the streak as a team, Gross said. But everybody definitely knows about it and is proud of it. But streaks like this dont go on forever, records are made to be broken. So, we cant take anything for granted.
Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013
Charlotte Catholic swimmers leave 3A with another title
The Charlotte Catholic swimming and diving team won its 12th straight state championship this year, the last year before it moves to 4A. COURTESY OF BRIAN GROSS