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With Emily Allen back, Hough wins MECKA 8 4A swim title

By Bill Kiser
Correspondent

HUNTERSVILLE Emily Allen was just happy to be back in the swimming pool.

So was Hough’s girls swim team, with an energizing performance by its nationally ranked swimmer leading to a dominating finish in Saturday’s MECKA 8 4A championship meet at Huntersville Family Fitness and Aquatics.

Allen, a junior, won two individual events and was a member on a winning relay team for the Huskies, who swept all 12 events in beating Jay M. Robinson High by 217 points (607-390) to win their third straight conference title.

“It was a nice boost,” having Allen in the lineup, Hough coach Tim Queen said. “She’s a Junior National champion, one of the best 18-and-under swimmers in the nation. She brings that to the table.”

The Huskies’ boys team also continued their dominance in championship meets, taking their fourth consecutive conference title by winning nine of 12 events and finishing 143.5 points ahead of Robinson (510-366.5).

But the story of Saturday’s MECKA 8 4A championships was Allen, who has won or shared in seven event titles at the NCHSAA 4A state meet the past two years.

Allen won both the 50- and 100-yard freestyle events Saturday, posting automatic regional qualifying times in both, and was the leadoff swimmer of Hough’s winning 200-yard freestyle relay team.

Two of Allen’s teammates – sisters Heather and Jessica Merritt – actually bettered her performance at the conference meet, with each winning two individual events and teaming on a pair of relay wins.

What made Allen’s performance stand out was the fact that she missed two months of practices because of a concussion – the result of getting hit in the head by a wayward soccer ball during gym class – and didn’t swim her first meet until four days before the conference championships.

“I was cleared to practice just before Christmas,” Allen said. “This takes some of the pressure off me, but I’m definitely focused on the regionals. I want to get back to the states.”

Had Allen not swam in Tuesday’s last-chance meet, she would not have been able to swim in the MECKA 8 4A championships, next week’s NCHSAA 4A West regional meet (also being held at HFFA), or the 4A state championships, scheduled for Feb. 6-7 in Cary and Raleigh.

Now, Allen can focus on her goals – winning a third straight 50 freestyle title and a second straight 100 freestyle title, and helping the Huskies win their second straight 4A state title.

“She’s getting more and more healthy each week,” Queen said. “In two more weeks, she should be close to normal.”

Jessica Merritt, a sophomore, won the 200-yard freestyle and 100-yard breaststroke, and was on Hough’s winning 200-yard medley relay and 200 freestyle relay teams. Heather Merritt, a senior, won the 200-yard individual medley and 100-yard backstroke, and was on the winning 200 medley relay and 400-yard freestyle relay teams.

On the boys side, only one swimmer – Jay M. Robinson’s Tyler Gomez – won two individual events, taking the 200 individual medley and 100-yard butterfly. But the Huskies had four swimmers – Brian Davis, Trey Poff, Alexander McMurry and Hernan Gonzalez – who won an individual event and were each on two winning relay teams.

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