With boys' and girls' regional championships under its cap, Lake Norman Charter has proved again that it has one of the top 1A/2A swimming and diving programs in the state.
The girls squad dominated the 1A/2A West regional, winning by 131 points, while the boys edged out a win by 10 points.
"It was a lot of fun," said Knights' coach Alison Pick. "Everyone stepped up and did what they needed to do."
Lake Norman Charter had five individual champions at the regional meet. On the girls side, Emma Rubel won the 100-yard backstroke, Gabi Osterholz took the 100-yard freestyle and Adyson Lowe claimed the 1-meter diving title. For the boys, Chris Cardwell and Brian Davis won the 100-yard backstroke and 100-yard breaststroke titles, respectively.
Pick admitted the experience outside high school competition paid dividends for her regional champions.
"I'm lucky enough to have year-round swimmers who I've coached in the past and (who) contribute to making this team better," said Pick, who also coaches for SwimMAC.
The Knights swept the meet's freestyle relays, as both boys and girls claimed regional titles in the 200- and 400-yard relay races.
Rubel, Osterholz, Abbey Joiner and Lauren Davis made up both girls' relay teams, while Cardwell, Davis, Austin Jones, Brian Piccirilli made up the boys' regional title teams.
Osterholz said those races were the most important for her team to win.
"It gives you the most points," the junior said. "You push yourself harder on relays."
Her coach agreed.
"Relays are key to winning any kind of championship," said Pick. "For our 200-free and 400-free relay teams to win was huge for us. That's what we needed to do and what I expected them to do."
The 400-free relay race was key for the boys' title. Up by only 4.5 points, the group won the race by three seconds, in 3:20.65, knowing they had to win to claim the regional title.
"All four boys on that relay team swim year-round," said Pick. "Having that experience in big pressure moments helped out tremendously."
Joiner said having the boys win the regional title was big for the entire program, especially after the boys barely lost last year's title by only four points.
"It was really important to have both teams win," said Joiner. "We don't really separate ourselves; we're just one team."
Pick attributes her team's success this season to experience, having returned all but four swimmers from last year's teams (which finished second at the state meet) and the hard work her swimmers put in this season.
She said the team's main goal - aside from competing for a state title and winning both regional titles - was to qualify the most swimmers in the program's history for the regional meet. They accomplished that this season, having 25 swimmers make regionals, six more than last year.
Not having enough spots at the regional meet, she had to leave two qualifiers off her roster. Although it's tough, she said, it was a good problem to have, especially as the Knights graduate 19 seniors this spring.
"You feel bad for the kids who that happened to," said Pick. "But that's what's going to help us once this big class graduates. It's going to keep us moving forward."
The coach added she played around with her lineups throughout the year, trying to get younger swimmers experience.
Pick said freshman Gabbie Monroe and junior Briana Del Valle, both of whom went to states as part of the 200-medley relay team, are examples of swimmers who have developed for her team this season.
The coach said she was also impressed by Jake Koferl, Jeremy Knip and Tyler Henderson on the boys' side.
Rubel, the regional backstroke champion, said seeing the improvement of some of the non-year-round swimmers has made has been big for the entire team.
"It's very motivating for us," she said.
As her team prepared for last Friday's state meet, Pick said she was proud of them.
"To really see the hard work pay off, regardless of how we end up at states, was great," said Pick. "We've accomplished a lot. ... All that is because of the leadership and hard work that these swimmers have shown throughout the season."
Pick said she told the seniors at the beginning of season that she wanted them to walk away proud of the team they're leaving behind.
"There's no question that we've been able to do that."