Three years ago, the Providence High boys' swimming and diving team lost in the state championship meet to North Mecklenburg by just three points.
Kevin Glenn was a freshman that year. The loss stuck with him.
"We all dedicate so much of our lives to swimming and going out there and swimming our hearts out, and losing by three points was just awful," he said. "We really used that to motivate us."
It was the only loss for the Panthers that season. After winning a third straight N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A state championship at the Triangle Aquatic Center in Cary on Feb. 11, it was also the only loss Glenn and his classmates Ryan Wilkinson, Austin Snyder and Trevor Kent had in their entire high school careers.
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The Providence boys' team scored 256 points in the meet, beating second place Hough by 43 points, the same team that the Panthers beat by just 17 points in the 4A West Region meet. It's the boys' fifth title overall.
Past Panther teams have relied on one or two talented swimmers, like Kip Darmody and Anderson Sloan, who are both swimming at Division I schools. This year's championship was about depth.
"This was not an "I" effort, this was a team effort," said Sandy Martin, head coach. "It wasn't about anyone going for individual glory. It was about what's best for the team."
Before the state meet, the three team captains, Wilkinson, Snyder and Glenn, worked with Martin to set the lineup. Wilkinson wanted to put the best swimmers in the 200-medley relay, a change to the relay lineup from the regional. Snyder and Glenn resisted at first, but finally agreed. That relay, made up of Wilkinson, John Ferretti, Snyder and Kyle Darmody, beat Hough and finished first in the first boys' event of the state meet.
"That really gave us that confidence boost throughout the whole finals," said Glenn.
The Panthers only won one other race, the 200-yard freestyle relay (Glenn, Ferretti, Wilkinson, Darmody), breaking the team's own record from last year.
"It was really exciting for them to set a new state record, to break a record without Kip being on the team," said Martin.
No individual swimmers won a race for the Panthers, which speaks to the team's depth. Glenn came closest to winning a state championship, losing in the 200 individual medley by just .12 seconds to Wilmington Laney's Travis Johns.
"I was really hoping I was going to go out there and win, but me and Travis just had a good race there at the end and he got the tip of his fingernail on the wall before I got the tip of my fingernail on the wall," said Glenn. "That's just the way swimming is sometimes."
Wilkinson finished third in the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke events, Snyder finished fourth in the 100-yard butterfly, Darmody finished third in the 100 freestyle and fourth in the 200 freestyle, and the Panthers also finished fourth in the 400 freestyle relay (Snyder, Kent, Zach Cox and Glenn).
Glenn said he was happy with the way the team performed.
"It's probably the most fun trip we have all year," he said. "There's so much emotion involved and you're not swimming for yourself, you're swimming for your school."
Wilkinson and Snyder are going on to swim at N.C. State next year. Glenn has signed with Penn State. He says he'll miss swimming with his fellow seniors next year, but he's proud of what they accomplished.
"We have a really strong senior class," said Glenn. "We're not the fastest guys to ever come out of this school, for sure, but we've all been best friends since freshman year and we all work well together. We all train together every day and it's just really fun to go out there and swim with them."
Martin said that the seniors this year have been instrumental in helping the Providence program achieve what it has over the last four years.
"Since they were little they've given us our depth and they've just gotten stronger and stronger and moved up in their importance until they were the superstars their senior year," she said. "Can we do it again next year? I don't know. I don't know who we're getting, I don't know if we can replace them."
The Ardrey Kell girls' swim team picked up a state championship in the 200-yard freestyle relay. Sam Benson, Katie Erickson, Christina Villarasa and Shannon Foreman finished with a time of 1:38.60, just .04 seconds faster than second-place Wilmington Hoggard.
The Knights also finished fourth in the 400 freestyle relay (Benson, Abigail Black, Lauren Wallace, Foreman).
Providence diver Madeline Keeley finished fourth in the girls' 1-meter diving competition.
The Ardrey Kell girls placed sixth overall and the Providence High girls finished 10th.
Myers Park boys' diver Sazzy Gourley finished third in the 1-meter diving event.