Coach Dana St. Claire was surprised. He had solid expectations for the Bishop McGuinness boys swimming team this season.
The Villains, however, exceeded those — and by quite a bit.
St. Claire hoped for a top-10 finish at the NCHSAA Class 1-A/2-A Central Regional on Feb. 1. But Bishop McGuinness took third with 158 points — 181 behind Mooresville Pine Lake Prep, which won the title — at the meet, held at Greensboro Aquatic Center.
Two third-place performances in the in the 200- and 400-yard freestyle relays provided a boost. The Villains will lose just one swimmer heading into next season — senior Garrett Price, who individually finished eighth in the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 52.26, is set to graduate.
“I’d like to say it was great coaching, but I was surprised,” St. Claire joked of the team’s regional performance.
The Villains are moving on to the next step. Having qualified in six events out of the regional, they head into the Class 1-A/2-A swimming and diving championships today. Bishop McGuinness is one of 17 area schools competing at the Triangle Aquatic Center in Cary, with the finals beginning in the afternoon.
“It set us up pretty well for me to say, ‘All right, you guys did really well,’” St. Claire said. “Now we have to go even faster.”
It’s the site where just last season, Thomas Hamlet, now a freshman with the N.C. State swimming and diving team, had a record-setting performance to lead the Villains to a seventh-place finish. He won state titles in the 100-yard backstroke, clocking in at 47.82 to set a new state record across all classifications. Hamlet also finished the 100-yard butterfly in 48.80 — being named the NCHSAA’s most outstanding swimmer during that meet on Feb. 9, 2019.
Swimmers such as Price have been at this point before. That includes Isaac Kohl, who was part of last year’s second-place, 200-yard freestyle relay and is set to swim individually in the 100-yard backstroke this year, along with Dylan McGuire competing in the 100-yard fly.
Price, who was on the 400 freestyle relay team that pushed the Villains to seventh place last season, qualified for the state meet in an individual race for the second straight year.
“I think we feel very excited,” said Price, who has been on the Villains’ boys team all four years. “We had lost a lot of good swimmers last year, but we still have a lot of enthusiasm and talent this year.
“And, at regionals, a lot of us got best times. So I think, coming into states, we’re just very excited to continue building on what we’ve had.”