Hickory sweeps team awards
At the first gathering of all area swim teams, Hickory swept the board.
The Tornadoes won the boys and girls team awards and the combined team award.
"This is the first meet we had with the whole county since I've been coaching," said Hickory head coach Cathy Hitchcock. "We swim them at dual meets, but not everyone together. So it was kind of a neat thing to see all levels together."
It was an emotional night for the Maiden swim team. They were competing for the first time without teammate Kelsey Ann Hunt, who passed away on Christmas day.
Kelsey's coach, Rachel Kidwell, reflected on her fallen swimmer in a heart warming speech before the meet began.
"She was a great part of our team," Kidwell said. "She was deeply loved by everybody. She put her heart and soul into swimming. We are happy to have the time with her we did."
The meet not only honored Kesley, but benefited the 26.2 with Donna Mission, which is a national marathon formed by breast cancer survivor Donna Deegan. The marathon partners with Deegan's foundation to raise funds for cancer research.
Many swimmers wore pink and blue to honor Hunt and the Donna Mission.
"The coaches at St. Stephens have been nice enough to honor (Kelsey), as well as breast cancer," Kidwell said. "It's significant because pink was also her favorite color. My team has been extremely supportive of one another and wanting to do everything to honor her name.
After the emotional opening to the meet, action got under way.
Hickory's Graham Williams swam well for the boys' team. The University of North Carolina signee won the 500-yard freestyle and 200-yard freestyle.
"Graham swam his better events," Hitchcock said. "He is strong in those and is confident. He did a great job and came out on top."
Winning on the girls' side for Hickory was Janie Kennedy, who won the 200-yard freestyle outright and shared a tie with St. Stephens' Marinella Procopil for first in the 100-yard freestyle.
"The girls league is very close and tough," Hitchcock said. "For her to come out on top like that was awesome."
Two winners from St. Stephens also performed well. Sava Turcanu scored two wins in boys' individuals events, winning the 100-yard butterfly and 100-yard individual medley.
Procopil won two events for the girls' team. She posted first-place finishes in the 100-yard breast stroke and 100-yard freestyle, where she tied with Kennedy.
At the end of the day, the Red Tornadoes won both crowns. The boys' team scored 91 points, just ahead of St. Stephens total of 77.
The Hickory girls' finished with 100 points, which was 27 points ahead of Fred T. Foard's total of 73.
"We were on today," Hitchcock said. "We came out on top luckily. It is going to be a close race all season. All the coaches have talked, and we are very equal teams across our conference. We compete each meet to see who is going to come out on top, and we were fortunate today that we did that."