Kip Darmody graduated from Providence High last year after he led the Panthers to the 4A swimming and diving state championship. He's arguably the best swimmer to ever graduate from the school and is now swimming at Texas.
"Kip was the best thing that ever came through here, truly. And that's a lot with the talent that I've had," said coach Sandra Martin, now in her 14th year at Providence.
You might think this would be a rebuilding year for the Panthers. You'd be wrong.
Led by a trio of college-bound senior captains - Ryan Wilkinson, Kevin Glenn and Austin Snyder - Providence still has the talent to win a third straight N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A title.
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"Those three, it's been such a pleasure to watch them mature from when they came in here as little teeny-tiny freshmen, and I mean they were little guys," said Martin. "They're just great guys and I'm excited to see what they do at state and I'm excited to see what they do beyond that."
Wilkinson, who signed to swim at N.C. State, was a member of the 200-yard freestyle team that broke the state record last year and also swims the 50-yard freestyle and 100 backstroke events. Glenn, who signed with Penn State, and Snyder, N.C. State, were members of the state champion 400-yard freestyle team. Glenn also swims the 200 individual medley and 100 backstroke, and Snyder competes in the 500 freestyle and 100 butterfly.
The Panthers are experienced this year, only losing two seniors that competed at last year's state meet, Darmody and Garrett Webster, and the seniors said that the returners have improved from last year. Junior Kyle Darmody, Kip's younger brother, is back this year along with senior Trevor Kent, juniors John Ferretti, Thomas Prestifilippo and Tyler Clem, and sophomore Zach Cox.
"We're all swimming faster than we did last year, which is always a good sign," said Glenn, 17. "We're all just getting ready for the bulk of the season."
The Panthers boys' and girls' teams were undefeated going into the final regular season meet of the year last week against Ardrey Kell. Over the next month, the swimmers will compete in the conference, regional and state meets, where the boys will try to win a third-straight title.
"We obviously want to end our high school careers on a high note," said Glenn.
The seniors are part of a proud tradition of Providence boys' swim teams, which have won five state championships. This year's seniors have only lost one meet in their four years: the state championship their freshman year.
"We haven't lost a meet since freshman year," said Snyder, 18. "We don't want to lose one now."
Glenn said the team has the talent to win again this year, despite the loss of Darmody, because the Panthers didn't base their team around one swimmer.
"He was a part of the winning, but he wasn't close to the whole team," said Glenn. "It's not like football or basketball where one athlete can just dominate the whole game or the whole meet. He can only swim so many things."
Martin said building the program has been a team effort. She has her swimmers help make decisions and develop strategies for upcoming meets.
The seniors said that much of the success is due to the amount of competitive swim clubs in the area.
Though club swimming has helped them get better, the three say that they enjoy the team aspect of high school swimming and college swimming.
"We don't care how we (individually) do at states; we just want to win," said Snyder. "It's all about the team."
More than anything, they want to win this year, ending their high school career with a state championship.
"I would trade one from any of the other years for this year," said Wilkinson, 18. "I want to win that state championship."