Young duo give up-and-coming Chargers a spark

The results of the state championship meet nearly two weeks ago prove that Cox Mill has grown into one of the best 3A swim teams in the state.

Mackenzie O'Brien and Lexi Wrist will do their best to see that it continues that way for at least a couple more years.

The two sophomores were members of two relay teams that finished in the top eight at the state meet.

The Chargers girls finished tied for eighth and the boys finished sixth, making them one of six Cabarrus County teams that placed in the top 16 in the state.

With fellow sophomore Madeline Cowart and senior Bethy Beard, O'Brien and Wrist were members of the 200-yard medley relay team that placed fourth. O'Brien opened the relay in the backstroke, and Wrist completed the third leg with the butterfly.

The same four swimmers teamed up on the 200-yard freestyle relay that finished seventh. Wrist's split time of 25.77 seconds was the fastest 50 yards she has ever swum.

Though their finishes were not good enough to medal, Wrist and O'Brien also swam their career-best times in their individual events.

In the 100-yard breaststroke, Wrist finished with a time of 1:12.79 and placed 14th. She swam for a 1:02.10 time in the 100-yard butterfly, putting her in 13th place.

O'Brien swam a personal-best 1:03.68 in the preliminaries of the 100-yard backstroke. That time was more than two seconds better than her time in the finals.

Getting near 1:03 was unthinkable for O'Brien at the beginning of the season. Her time was closer to 1:08 only four months ago.

As a freshman, O'Brien wasn't fast enough to make Cox Mill's "A" relay teams. Last year, her season ended at the South Piedmont 3A Conference meet, where she placed fifth in the backstroke and seventh in the individual medley.

"Last year I was disappointed, because I really wanted to go to regionals with the team," said O'Brien. "Over the summer, I tried really hard and made my goal of making the 'A' relay. It was the ultimate goal to go to states in the relay."

This season, O'Brien was the conference champion in the backstroke. Both relays also took first place.

At the 3A West regional, both relays finished third, and O'Brien placed 11th in the backstroke, qualifying her for the state meet.

Making the state meet this year was a repeat for Wrist. She won the SPC title in the butterfly last season, took eighth place at regionals and qualified for states. The "A" relay teams, of which she was a member, reached regionals last year but fell short of the state meet.

Wrist came to Cox Mill as a freshman after competing two years in at Hickory Grove in Charlotte. She reached the private school state meet as a seventh- and eighth-grader.

Her brother, Andrew, was a standout at Mallard Creek High and now competes for the University of Alabama. The Wrist family moved to Concord, though, before her freshman year.

A year-round swimmer, Wrist is a teammate of O'Brien on the NOMAD Aquatic Devils team. Wrist is skilled at all the strokes, making her strong in the medley event.

At the conference meet, she finished third in the individual medley and second in the butterfly. At regionals, however, she swam the breaststroke and placed eighth.

Partly because of Wrist and O'Brien, Cox Mill coach Jamie Carter thinks Cox Mill's stronger days are ahead.

"Our team, we lose a lot of talent next year," said Carter. "But each time we lose someone, we have such strong swimmers coming in. It definitely is a loss for us, but I think the team will get nothing but stronger. By the time those two girls are seniors, I think that's when Cox Mill will be their best."