Small Cox Mill girls’ swim team makes the most of what it has
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Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014

Small Cox Mill girls’ swim team makes the most of what it has

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- JOE HABINA
Madeline Cowart, Lexi Wrist and Mackenzie O’Brien, from left, led Cox Mill High’s girls’ swim team to its first South Piedmont 3A conference championship this season.

With only 20 athletes, Cox Mill High’s girls’ swim team is not going to win many meets by sheer depth. Instead, the Chargers make the most of what they have.

Led by a core group of seniors who have improved each of their four years, as well as a strong freshman class, Cox Mill recently won its first conference championship since the school opened in 2009.

Last year, the Chargers placed ninth at the 3A state championship meet. Expectations this year are that Cox Mill could finish as one of the top three teams in their classification.

“This is definitely the best year the girls have ever had at Cox Mill,” coach Jamie Carter said. “Between the girls that took us to states last year who are now seniors – plus a big group of freshmen – the two groups have just rocked.”

This year’s 3A state championship meet will be held Feb. 8 at Cary’s Triangle Aquatic Center. First, Cox Mill will challenge for the 3A Central regional championship, a new region created by the N.C. High School Athletic Association this year.

The 3A classification used to be split into just two regions: East and West. This season’s addition of a Central region shrinks the number of teams in each region and increases every team’s chances of capturing a championship.

Qualifying times have also gotten slower this year. Prior to the South Piedmont 3A meet on Jan. 17, Cox Mill had already qualified 12 swimmers – four times the number it had in its previous four seasons.

The Chargers’ three senior captains have set a precedent in their first three years. Madeline Cowart and Lexi Wrist are three-time qualifiers for the state meet, and Mackenzie O’Brien has reached the championship meet twice.

“It’s really great because this year as seniors, we’ve kind of have gotten to watch over the team,” O’Brien said. “Going out this year with such a great team is a great way to go.”

Cowart specializes in the freestyle events; Wrist is adept at the breaststroke and butterfly; O’Brien stands out in the backstroke.

The three of them have swum on the same relay events – the 200-yard medley and 200-yard freestyle – at the last two state meets. Cowart and Wrist also competed in those two relay events as freshmen.

Expected to be a key addition to this year’s relay teams is senior Pang Wongsettapusit, an exchange student from Thailand competing for Cox Mill for the first time.

This year’s team has six seniors, five juniors and nine freshmen. The freshmen’s youth and exuberance has been a plus, according to Cowart.

“This year we had some fantastic freshmen come to our team,” Cowart said. “They have definitely been an asset. They’re beating some of the seniors, which is awesome for our team because they are pushing all of the seniors and making them work harder.”

Cox Mill cruised through the South Piedmont 3A regular season and breezed through the conference meet, beating second place South Rowan 608-311. Chargers swimmers took first place in six individual events and all three relays, and the freshmen were a big part of that.

Freshman Madison Holland won the 200-yard freestyle and the 100-yard backstroke. Classmate Cathleen Rogers took first in the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard butterfly. And fellow ninth grader Bailey Minnick won the 100-yard individual medley.

All of the standouts are year-round swimmers and many of them compete for the Huntersville-based NOMAD Swim Team, where Carter also serves as a coach. Despite the small roster, Carter says this has been the most productive season in more than just meet results.

“It’s really nice with us having a smaller group and a more advanced group,” Carter said. “We can get in a lot more yardage at practice. When we first started (the program), I was in the water teaching strokes. Now they can get through 3,000 yards in a one-hour practice like it’s nothing.”

Joe Habina is a freelance. Have a story idea for Joe? Email him at joehabina@yahoo.com.

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