South Charlotte

Cougar swimmers win 11th straight title

The Charlotte Catholic girls' swimming and diving team won its 11th straight state championship at the Triangle Aquatic Center in Cary with a dominating performance that included eight individual state championships and six new state records.

The Cougars scored 496 points in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A meet Feb. 9, more than 200 more than second place Marvin Ridge.

"They had a heck of a meet," said coach Brian Gross. "They just surprised the heck out of me with the way they swam."

Charlotte Catholic won all but four of the events at the meet: diving, 500-yard freestyle, 100 breaststroke and 100 backstroke. They finished second in all of those events.

"They're a fast group of girls," said Gross. "I was by no means expecting us to win every event because there's a lot of good swimmers in the state."

Freshman Nora McCullagh was a huge addition to the team this year, winning the 50-yard freestyle and swimming on the 200 and 400 freestyle relays that won the state championships. The 200 relay team (McCullagh, Maria Sheridan, Christine Sullivan and Lauren Rhodes) and the 400 team (McCullagh, Ashlyn Koletic, Elsa Welshofer and Rhodes) both broke all-division state records.

"Those (relays) were mind boggling," said Gross. "It's nice to see a 3A school have those records because most of them are 4A driven."

The Cougars started the meet with a win in the 200 medley relay (Sheridan, Allison McDonough, Welshofer and Koletic), breaking its own record from two years ago. Rhodes set a 3A state record in the 200-yard freestyle event with a time of 1:50.22 and Nicole Emery won the 200 individual medley with a 3A state record time of 2:03.63. Welshofer and Sheridan finished first and second in the 100 butterfly and Rhodes and Koletic finished first and second in the 100 freestyle race. Rhodes set a 3A state record of 50.55 in that event.

Gross said he was most impressed by an event that the Cougars didn't win: the 500-yard freestyle. Even though he said his swimmers weren't rested or prepared for the race, Sullivan became the first Catholic girls' swimmer to break five minutes in the race, finishing second. McCullagh finished third.

"The 500 really surprised me," said Gross. "That was a great swim."

The Charlotte Catholic boys' team finished second at the meet for the fourth year in a row, scoring 228 points to first-place Cardinal Gibbons' 275.

The Cougars' Matthew Rigali finished second in the 200 breaststroke event. The boys' 200-yard medley relay (Kevin Kirby, Matthew Rigali, Nick Rhodes and Ryan Hall), 200-yard freestyle relay (Michael Curry, William Webb, Cameron Hoyer and Hall) and 400-yard freestyle relay (Curry, Kirby, Nick Rhodes and Hoyer) each finished third.