4A Swimming & Diving Championship: Hough women nab third straight title, Green Hope men snap South Mecklenburg streak

CARY, NC – The Hough Huskies took their third straight team championship at the 4A Swimming and Diving Championships, edging Leesville Road 295-267. It was the Huskies fifth state championship on the women’s side in school history. On the men’s side, the Green Hope Falcons snapped a streak of three straight championships by South Mecklenburg to claim Green Hope’s third title all-time and first since 2014.



Again this year, Hough’s depth in all races proved to be the difference after a see-saw battle with Leesville Road through the first nine events. The Huskies trailed Leesville 215-198 after the 200 Free Relay, but the Huskies placed two swimmers in the Championship Final of the 100 Backstroke, Kensley Merritt, who finished second in :54.45 just behind South Mecklenburg’s Sinclair Larson who won the event in :53.71. Hough also placed Amaya Hanley who touched in sixth.

The 100 Backstroke results flipped the team scores back in favor of Hough, putting the Huskies up 235-218, before Lilly Higgs claimed the first individual event victory for Hough in the 100 Breaststroke. Higgs clocked in at 1:01.57, setting a new state meet record in the event, eclipsing the 1:01.78 set by Julia Poole of Middle Creek just a year ago.

Higgs then anchored the victorious 400 Free Relay squad for the Huskies as she combined with Heidi Lowe, Amaya Hanley and Merritt to slide in at 3:24.43 just ahead of South Mecklenburg’s four who touched in 3:24.86.

Leesville Road kept things close thanks to impressive performances by meet MVP, Grace Countie, who topped the podium in all four events she participated in. Countie anchored the 200 Medley Relay, teaming with Anna Carrigan, Ashley McCauley and Amanda Ray to set a new state meet record time of 1:42.20. Countie’s 50 yard Free split in the relay was :21.78 seconds.

Countie then broke her own state meet record for the third consecutive year in the 50 Freestyle. She clocked in at :22.54, shaving six one-hundredths of a second off of her record time from a year ago. After a short break, she just missed setting a new state meet record in the 100 Freestyle, tapping the wall at :49.69 seconds, just one hundredth of a second off the record set by Hough’s Emily Allen in 2014.

Countie’s most impressive swim might have been in the final leg of the 200 Freestyle Relay, where she anchored the Pride team of Grace Newton, Caroline Keever and Brooke Morgan. Countie hit the water 1.45 seconds behind Hough’s anchor Merritt, but Countie swam a :21.86 second split to earn the victory for Leesville with a time of 1:34.75.

Brooke Zettel from Apex Friendship set a new state meet record in the 200 Individual Medley,t touching in 1:58.31 and earning the title. Her time trimmed the record of 1:58.77 set by Middle Creek’s Julia Poole last year.

Sanderson’s Kenna Haney won a pair of individual events, taking victory in the 200 and 500 Freestyle events. Haney touched the wall in 1:47.90, just a shade under a second ahead of Hough’s Heidi Lowe in the 200 Free. She then outpaced Leesville’s Amanda Ray in the 500 Free, hitting the wall in 4:49.59, over 2.5 seconds ahead of Ray’s 4:52.17.



Green Hope men won the championship’s first event and didn’t look back. The Falcons saw John Healy, Connor Dalbo, Jesse Ssengonzi and Michael Ivy team up to edge South Mecklenburg in the 200 Medley Relay. The Falcon combination slipped in at 1:33.27 just ahead of the Sabres quartet at 1:33.63.

Green Hope did not find themselves on top of the podium in any other events throughout the night, but they were regulars on the awards podium. Their consistency was the key to a 272-186 victory over three-time defending 4A Champions, South Mecklenburg.

Walker Creedon was the top finishing individual for Green Hope, finishing second in the diving competition with a score of 507.25. He finished behind Northwest Guilford’s Noah Zawadzki who scored 577.65. Dalbo also finished second for the Green Hope in the 100 Breaststroke, just behind South Mecklenburg’s Jacob Rauch. Other top finishers for the Falcons included third place finishes for Healy in the 100 Butterfly and 100 Backstroke.

Tucker Burhans was named the men’s meet MVP. Burhans claimed victory in two events the 100 Freestyle and 100 Backstroke, setting a new state meet record in the latter. Burhans finished the 100 Backstroke in :48.78, eclipsing the :48.84 time of Kip Darmody from Providence in 2011. Burhans nabbed the 100 Freestyle in :45.33, out touching Grimsley’s Graham Hertweck by just 2 hundredths of a second.

Athens Drive’s Zach Brown was a double winner, claiming the top spot in the 200 Individual Medley with a time of 1:48.47 before earning first in the 100 Butterfly with his mark of :47.70.

Jack Walker from Myers Park established a new 4A classification meet record in the 200 Freestyle, touching in 1:37.75. That time broke the mark of 1:37.95 set by Olympic Gold Medalist Charlie Houchin from Enloe back in 2006. Walker also helped Myers Park to victories in the 200 and 400 Freestyle Relays.

Walker anchored the 200 Free Relay with Charles Clickner, Hugh Svendsen and Cameron Miller with the group finishing in 1:25.28, sliding in just ahead of Millbrook at 1:25.73. Walker swam third in the 400 Free Relay, as Miller anchored with Svendsen leading off and Andrew Warlick joining the team. That quartet touched the wall in 3:06.69, a second and a half ahead of Green Hope’s team of Ivy, Dalbo, Mitch Curlee and Healy who finished in 3:08.19.