Bulldogs seek 8th county title

The term "county champion" has been synonymous with the Concord Robinson girls swim team since the school opened.

Though there's some uncertainty about whether a Cabarrus County meet took place during the 2001-02 season, Robinson's inaugural school year, the Bulldogs have won every year a county meet has been held since then. Minus the year the meet was snowed out (2004-05), Robinson has won seven county championships.

As they celebrate their 10th anniversary season, the Bulldogs will swim for their eighth county title Saturday at Huntersville's NOMAD Aquatics and Fitness Center.

Coach Beverly Kopelic said the school's trophy case has been home to a plaque awarded annually to the Robinson girls team as county champion since she started coaching both the boys and girls teams in the 2005-06 season. Individual plates for each year decorate the plaque, starting with the 2002-03 season.

"We've had talented kids, and (have been deep with) talented kids," Kopelic said. "So when we enter an A-and-B relay in county meets, our 'B' relays have often beat other schools' 'A' relays. So it's the depth when you can field two solid teams of kids."

The 2002-03 season was the second of five straight years Robinson was part of the South Piedmont 3A Conference. Other conference teams during that span included fellow Cabarrus County school Concord, along with and Piedmont, Parkwood, Sun Valley and Weddington - all in Union County.

Robinson's girls teams didn't fare as well in South Piedmont regular-season-ending conference meets. They won the title in the 2002-03 season but finished second in 2003-04 and in third place the other two seasons. Concord was victorious in the years Robinson was not.

In the early county meets, Kannapolis Brown, Central Cabarrus, Mount Pleasant and Northwest Cabarrus joined Robinson and Concord. Harrisburg Hickory Ridge was established in 2007 and Concord Cox Mill opened in 2009.

The two different meets were scored slightly differently, which may help explain the Bulldogs' greater success in the county meets. According to Concord coach Ray Morgan, in the conference meets, each team was allowed two individual event entries, while in county meets each team could have four.

It could be that Robinson's traditionally deep roster was rewarded in meets in which more individual entries per event were permitted.

In the Bulldogs' first three county meets, their South Piedmont nemesis, Concord, finished as runnerup. Over the next three county meets, Northwest Cabarrus was Robinson's closest rival.

Starting with the 2005-06 season, Kopelic's first as head coach, Robinson was reclassified to 4A by the state high school athletic association. The Bulldogs spent the next four seasons in the ME-CA 6/7 Conference, finishing in third place twice and in second twice.

Robinson dropped to 3A again with the next state reclassification, before the 2009-10 school year. Because all of Cabarrus County's schools were now members of the same South Piedmont 3A Conference, the county meet and conference meet essentially became the same event.

The Robinson girls and boys team swept the conference/county championships in the new format a year ago. The girls team won 10 of 11 events and nearly doubled the score of second-place Northwest Cabarrus. Individual Bulldogs hold county meet records in five events.

Senior Meghan Masius has participated in three county competitions and is a record holder (with Katy Gilbert, Alex Kirk and Julia Greer, all of whom have graduated) in the 200-yard medley relay (2008-09).

While it's nice to be part of a team that's been so well represented, Masius said, year-round swim club friendships with swimmers from other schools prevent heated rivalries from developing.

"You know a lot more people at this level," Masius said. "It's fun to see everyone and see where everyone is and who can beat who and what times everyone has."

"I think there's definitely a standard we want to meet every year."