Charlotte Country Day swim coach Bob Peterson stood at the front of the bus calling roll before the boys' and girls' swim teams left for the state championship meet.
"Is there a Mo on the bus?" he asked. "Is there a Mo-mentum?"
"It was a corny joke," he said, but it worked.
On Feb. 21, the Buccaneers swept the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 3A state meet at the Triangle Aquatic Center in Cary for the first time in team history. The boys' team beat rival Charlotte Latin 267-254.5 and the girls scored 288.5 points - 73.5 points more than second-place Wesleyan Christian Academy.
For the boys, it was the second straight state title. For the girls, the win came one year after coming in second by just two points to Wesleyan Christian.
"We came out first thing in the morning and had a really good prelim(inary) swim, and then the kids were really, really inspired to swim fast," said Peterson. "They were all excited about a chance to repeat and a chance to vindicate last year's loss."
It was much easier for the swimmers to celebrate this year after both teams won.
"Last year it was kind of bittersweet, because the guys won and the girls - it was so close," said senior Graham Hunt. "This year, winning together was a good feeling. When we jumped into the pool at the end it was really exciting."
The Bucs got out to a quick start, winning the first four events: the girls' 200-yard medley relay (junior Hayden Bumgardner, freshman Renni Turpin, senior Jourdan Cline and sophomore Avery Portland), the boys' 200-yard medley relay (seniors Zane Turpin, Andrew Stranick and Hunt and sophomore Tripp Mulligan), the girls' 200-yard freestyle (junior Sam Frost) and the boys' 200-yard freestyle (Stranick).
The boys' 200 medley relay team broke a 6-year-old state record by more than a second, beating second-place Charlotte Latin in the relay for the first time all season.
"We talked about (breaking the record) all season," said Turpin. "We kind of threw it out there as a goal and we didn't know if we could do it or not."
Peterson said the relay win and the state record was huge for the team early in the meet.
"When the boys did it, that was a big punctuation mark," he said. "I probably got the most animated I did the entire meet after that relay."
Hunt was most impressive in the relay, said Peterson, dropping a second off his fastest time all season. Hunt doesn't swim year-around.
"Graham probably had the best single meet that I've seen in a while," said Peterson, who has been coaching at Country Day since 1999. "Every race he got in the water he just blew up."
The girls took the lead after the first event and never let it go, also winning the 100-yard backstroke (Cline) and the 400-yard freestyle relay (Frost, senior Katie Nelson, Bumgardner and Cline).
The boys took the lead later in the meet, after Turpin won the 500-yard freestyle. Turpin also won the 100-yard butterfly event and Stranick won the 100-yard breaststroke.
Frost said the fast swimming was contagious and the two teams fed off each other's success.
"I know me and Katie (Nelson) were standing over there watching the (boys' 200-medley) relay, we got so excited that we both had really great 200-frees," she said. "It really gets the momentum going."
Turpin said the meets are really won early, in the preliminary races.
"It all started in prelims. We had a lot of people that were putting themselves in scoring positions and dropping times, and that got everybody going and put everybody in a position to win together," he said.
The Bucs also swept the Charlotte Independent Schools Athletic Association conference meet for the first time this year, giving them even more momentum going into the state meet.
"We didn't want to get ahead of ourselves, but yeah, it definitely gave us a lot of confidence to see everyone swimming fast," said Stranick.
The girls finished the season undefeated. The state championship win was special after how close they came last year, finishing second on the final relay to lose by two.
"I thought (winning this year) was awesome, mainly because last year we lost by two points to Wesleyan and this year we beat them by 70, so that was really exciting," said Nelson.
Peterson said the team's senior leadership really helped this year. The Bucs will graduate 13 seniors.
"We're definitely going to miss our senior class," he said. "It's going to be impossible to replace them."
Peterson said he is impressed by his underclassmen, however, and expects the team to be competitive again next year.
But for this year's seniors, it was a perfect way to end their high school career.
"It's definitely a spectacular finish to my senior year," said Stranick. "I couldn't ask for anything better."