On Saturday, the Cambridge Bears took to the pool at the Greater Atlanta Christian School in Norcross. Stakes were high as the team began to warm up and realized that this was going to be their last chance to compete for the season and qualify to continue on to State Championships at Georgia Tech in February. Many were not ready to finish and were determined to extend their season to the best competition the state has to offer.
The team was mixing up many of the relay teams in order to see if qualifying could be within their reach. One of those restructured teams was the boys' 200-medley relay made up of Jake Todd (backstroke), Kyle Daniel (breaststroke), Erek Humm (butterfly), and Hawk Hammer (freestyle). With the majority of the relay team swimming season best splits, they did set a new season record for the Bears with a time of 1:59.22; however, the time was not enough to move on to State. The team was disappointed, yet very hopeful at the possibilities later in the meet and the potential they could reach in the upcoming years. While Hammer (senior) will be graduating, the rest of the relay team will be able to meet back up next season and hunt down that State Meet cut.
The girls' 200-medley relay team welcomed a new member to the team, Caley Cramer. Cramer came to the team from Texas and this was her first opportunity to swim with her new teammates and Cramer did not disappoint. Cramer, leading off the medley relay in backstroke, teamed up with Maggie McGinty (breastroke), Tori Bentley (butterfly), and Sydney Swenton (freestyle). The medley relay squad had already qualified the previous week for the state meet, but Cramer helped push the team to a new season record with a time of 2:02.87. While Bentley (senior) will be graduating and moving on to Kansas State in the fall, the team is excited that Lauren Holliday has stepped up to the backstroke position and Cramer will move to the butterfly position. The team is excited about the possibilities Cramer has opened up to the squad. Angela Ho, a valuable member of the relay team this season, will be accompanying her relay team to state in February as well.
The good times continued to roll with Sydney Anderson swimming a new season best time of 2:29.10. When told at the beginning of the race to beat the girl next to her, Anderson stepped up to the challenge and got the job done. Coach Hall comments: "Sydney is such a dedicated and talented swimmer. The possibilities for her in the upcoming years are endless."
The boys' team truly came out determined to make their presence known. As a result of hard work, a good taper, and following the instructions of the coach, many were able to drop significant time. Bryce Jewell, while seeded sixth in his heat in the 50-freestyle, took to the pool and jumped to the first place position with a new season best time of 25.12. Jewell's hard work has earned him spots on the 200-freestyle and 400-freestyle relays. Jewell came into the season without any prior competitive swimming experience, and has jumped to among the fastest male swimmers on the team. His focus and determination to go fast and train hard has earned him his position on the team. Other 50-freestyle best times include Jeremy Sokol with a time of 27.62 and Sebastian Lara with a time of 27.99.
The girls' team was excited to welcome back to the pool a couple members of the team that have suffered from injuries and other obstacles that have prevented them from competing most of the season. Susannah Jordshaugen, after struggling with repeated shoulder injuries, was able to compete in the 50-freestyle to swim a season best time of 27.78. She is excited at the prospects next season will hold for her and the role she will strive to play on the top relay teams. Another member of the team that was able to participate was Emily Powers. After struggling all season with restrictions from swimming, she took to the pool with a big smile in the 50-freestyle and placed third in her heat. While she has been playing a vital role on the team as a coaching assistant and timer, the team was so excited to have her back in the pool competing among her teammates. Coach Hall was excited to see both girls take to the pool and can't wait till they can be in full swing next season.
More girls' 50-freestyle best times include Ashley Dale Henslee with a time of 28.12, Sydney Swenton with a time of 28.62, Angela Ho with a time of 29.17, Amanda Seibert with a time of 30.54, and Carlee Bentley with a time of 31.69.
Caley Cramer was able to display more of her talents in the 100-butterfly event. Cramer's time placed her among the top swimmers in the meet with a time of 1:09.16. While she was not exactly happy with her time, her talents will open so many doors for the team in events that they had not yet been able to score in.
The boys' 100-freestyle event was certainly one of the most exciting events of the day for the Cambridge Bears. Hawk Hammer started the boys' off in the first heat with a new season best time of 52.60. Hammer was disappointed to miss the state cut time by 0.60, but improving by almost a whole second in such a short race is an incredible achievement. He will hold the Cambridge school record for this event. Bryce Jewell and Noah Sannes took to the pool in the same heat. Jewell finished with a new season best time of 57.19 and Sannes also finished with a new season best time of 59.65. With both swimmers under a minute, the number of boys' fighting for a spot on the sacred freestyle relay teams has truly increased in intensity. Coach Hall comments: "The boys all feed off each other. They all want to win and beat one another in the pool, but the second they get out they are the best teammates to one another with the amount of support and encouragement they give to each other. The balance of competition and camaraderie is what takes a team from good to great." Jeremy Sokol also got a season best time of 1:03.53.
Freestyle continued to be a strength for the Bears with the girls' 100-freestyle event. Ashley Dale Henslee again improved her time to a 1:02.37, Lauren Holliday swam an incredible 1:01.33 (dropping an incredible five seconds off her seed time and winning her heat), Sophia LaMarca improved her time to swim a 1:08.60, Ayana Dudley dropped her time to a 1:11.61, Sydney Anderson improved in her second event of the day with a 1:09.31, and Sarah Moore also improved to swim a time of 1:12.80.
Since the boys' medley relay team did not make the state cut time, they were determined to get in to state with their last two relays of the day. The first relay was the 200-freestyle relay made up of Hawk Hammer, Erek Humm, Jake Todd and Bryce Jewell. They had two-and-a-half seconds to shave off in order to make the state cut, and with such a short distance for each person to swim, they all had to swim their best times to make that cut. Hammer started off the relay, coming in with a 24.14 split, which was on-pace with what he needed to swim in order to get the team into the right position to make the cut. Humm dove in next to swim a 26.06 split, followed by Todd contributing an incredibly 25.12, and lastly Jewell. Jewell needed to swim a season-best split in order to get the Bears the cut they needed. With determination, he took to the pool and swam an incredible 24.23. The boys' team had made the state cut with only 0.50 seconds to spare. A sense of relief and joy filled the team as the state meet roster had just added the boys' relay. The excitement wasn't over. In the B-relay, Noah Sannes was determined to prove himself and gain a spot on the relay. Incredible, Sannes swam a 26.06, the exact split of Humm, which will prove to be a showdown when it comes to competing in the relay at state. Both boys will go to state with the relay team, but one will be an alternate.
The girls' 200-freestyle relay was up next. They had come so close last weekend and needed to cut 0.15 seconds off their time to earn a spot at state. While seemingly easy to do, cutting time is a challenge in shorter events. The relay team, made up of Lauren Holliday, Ashley Dale Henslee, Maggie McGinty, and Sydney Swenton, were determined to not have the season end here. They wanted to be at the Georgia Tech state meet more than anything and were focused and ready to do it. With each swimmer going faster than 28.2 seconds, the girls' made the cut with a time of 1:52.27. Elation and relief spread throughout the team. Everyone then realized that the state roster was again growing to include more of the Bears' squad. The team celebrated and then realized that they needed to refocus because they had one more relay they wanted to add to their state meet schedule, and that would be the last relay of the day: the 400-freestyle relay. An important element of the Bears' success would lie in the hands of Alex Newcomer. After a difficult day of competition and challenges to swim at her potential, Newcomer had been discouraged. She was preparing to give up her spot to another teammate for the final relay of the day because she realized that if she swam and didn't help her team secure a spot, the season would be over for her and her teammates, but if she let another swimmer that was having a faster day take her spot, she would be able to earn a spot on the relay either as an alternate or a member of the swimming team. Going into the B-relay for the 200-freestyle she had resigned herself to give up her spot, but she knew that this was her chance to prove herself. She took to the pool and gave it everything she had. She touched the pad to finish the race and swam an incredible 27.96. Her team shouted out for her and the smile of Newcomer's face was a sign that she was back and ready to go. Her team insisted that she keep her spot on the relay and prove that is where she deserved to be.
Other notable individual performances include Amanda Seibert's 100-backstroke, earning a season best time of 1:27.05, an incredible performance by new swimmer Caley Cramer in the 100-backstroke with a time of 1:08.54 (two-and-a-half seconds off the state cut time), and Maggie McGinty in the 100-breaststroke with a faster state cut time of 1:12.48 and an overall second-place finish in the event.
The last event of the day was the 400-freestyle relay. This was going to be an opportunity for the boys' team to add another relay event to their state schedules and an opportunity for the girls' team to compete in each of the three relays offered at state. The boys' team had an uphill battle set up for them from the beginning. With a seed time of 4:01.81, they would need to cut an incredible 17.81 seconds off their time to qualify to move on. Each of the boys would have to swim an average of 56.00 seconds for their 100-freestyle leg, an incredible time that only a few boys on the team had been able to do thus far. The team was made up of Hawk Hammer, Erek Humm, Bryce Jewell, and Jake Todd. Hammer started the team off and contributed a 53.81, which would allow for some wiggle room for the other boys. Humm dove in to contribute a 57.01, a season best split. Jewell contributed a 56.79, a new season best split and improvement from even just earlier in the day. It was all up to Todd to bring home a solid time. Swimming a season-best time of 57.17, Todd touched the timing pad, the team shot their eyes to the scoreboard and saw 3:44.84. They had missed the state cut by 0.84 seconds. They had smashed their seed time by an incredible amount, but it wasn't enough to get them the cut they had desperately wanted.
The girls' team was up next. The boys' team had an incredible performance, even without a state cut, and that gave the girls' relay team the motivation and determination they needed. The relay team, made up of Lauren Holliday, Alex Newcomer, Ashley Dale Henslee, and Caley Cramer, would need to average a time of 1:03.00 each to make the cut. By doing the math, the team knew it was easily within their reach if each of them performed the way they had shown they could. Holliday started the team off. Holliday was not originally scheduled to swim the relay, but due to her incredible time earlier she had earned a spot to lead off her team. Holliday swam on target with a split time of 1:01.37. Next was Newcomer swimming with a split of 1:03.32. The team was on target to meet their goal. Henslee swam a new season best split of 1:02.20, and lastly was the team's new addition. Cramer anchored the team and brought in a time of 1:00. The team had made the cut with a time of 4:07.93. Sydney Swenton had given up her spot to Holliday, but she will accompany the team to state as a consideration for a leg of the race or an alternate. Angela Ho will also be at the meet vying for a spot on the relay with her improved split in the 100-freestyle.
As the meet came to an end, there was a mixture of excitement and also disappointment. The boys' team had come so close and felt that they deserved another chance to prove themselves. Hawk Hammer, a senior, especially felt that they deserved another chance. He wanted to make his 100-freestyle individual as well as help the relay earn their place. This would be his last opportunity to swim at state. State cut times have a deadline of Thursday, January 31st; therefore, if the Bears would want another chance they would have to find an opportunity before then. After inquiring with some other coaches, Coach Hall found an opportunity. Immediately following the meet, Coach Hall got in touch with the coach from the Riverside Military Academy. They were hosting a "last chance" meet on Tuesday evening at their school up in Gainesville, GA and would welcome the Bears to get in a last opportunity to make their cut. The team was elated. The meet would offer an opportunity for the Bears to make their state cuts and for swimmers wanting a spot on the relays to compete for the top times.
The team will head to Gainesville, GA on Tuesday to participate in the meet at 5:30 PM at the Riverside Military Academy alongside Johns Creek High School and 4 other teams. Hopefully the Bears will be able to add more names to their state meet roster and make a statement at their first state meet appearance.
State Championship Meet will be held at Georgia Tech on February 8th and 9th. The Bears will compete on Friday in the preliminary heats starting at 9:00 AM. If the Bears' qualify to move on to finals, they will compete on Saturday at 11:00 AM.