Lassiter teams eye more than runner-up mark
by Adam Carrington
acarrington@mdjonline.com
February 06, 2013 12:56 AM | 1707 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Both of Lassiter’s swimming programs finished a solid second at last year’s state meet.

But neither would mind a first-place showing when they return to the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center on Friday and Saturday for the Class AAAAAA championships.

Neither has the depth up top that they had relied on to be winners last season, in which the Lady Trojans were denied a fifth-straight state championship.

While depth on top may be in question, neither Lassiter team is short of talent, and their relays speak volumes.

The boys have unfinished business and will need a solid preliminary meet Friday to set themselves up for Saturday’s finals.

Parkview, which won last year’s state meet over Lassiter, is the favorite to win again, while north Fulton powers Chattahoochee and Alpharetta will also be forces to reckon with.

Lassiter still has enough depth to score points in most events, but it may be hurt by its lack of breaststrokers. Having no finalists in the breaststroke last year prevented Lassiter from making a late surge.

Jimmy Yoder is at his best right now for the Lassiter boys and is a favorite to win the 200- and 500-yard freestyles. Zach Bunner is also capable of being a two-event winner, most likely swimming the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly.

Daniel Bridgers also has potential to place high in the sprint freestyle events, coming off the momentum of a successful county meet.

“We thought it was a really good meet,” Bridgers said. “We did well in relay and hope to continue that at state. All we can do is just swim our best.”

After being relatively quiet in the first half of the season, the Lady Trojans got attention at county by either winning or placing high in many events.

They nearly came from behind to beat Walton, which is deeper now than in seasons past.

Jordan Drake, Lauren O’Malley, Micaela Janco and Ali Ramirez set the bar for the state meet by winning the 200 medley and the 200 freestyle relays, and the foursome has a shot of being the state’s best team in both.

“I feel like Lassiter will be competitive this year,” Drake said. “I know that our medley and 200 freestyle won county by a good amount this year. With our strong relays, I think we’re going to be in the top three this year.”

All four of the relay standouts — plus Lexie Glunn and Nicole Prendes — can also do damage in the individual events, with Drake claiming the 100 freestyle at county.

The Lassiter girls will likely have to contend with the usual Gwinnett County powers, like defending state champion Brookwood and Peachtree Ridge. The Lady Trojans also can’t overlook Lambert, and more familiar rivals Walton and Kennesaw Mountain.

The Walton boys have what it takes to surpass the Lassiter boys — if DQs don’t interfere.

Disqualifications in two relays during the preliminaries of last season’s state meet prevented the Raiders from a likely third-place finish, and they had to settle for 11th. They also got away with a DQ in the 400 freestyle at county — something they can’t do again to ensure a strong finish at state.

If Walton can stay mistake-free, its depth can take them a long way. Same goes for the girls.

To succeed, both Raider teams will have to use depth to place as many swimmers in the top 16 as possible.

Nathan Hufnagel, a two-time winner at county in the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke, is the most experienced of the Raiders’ contingent, with Jack Gunning expected to score high in the distance freestyles. For the girls, Kira de Bruyn is going for her second state title in the 200 individual medley.

The Kennesaw Mountain girls are shooting for their second straight top-10 finish and can pull off another state title in the 400 freestyle with help from sisters Melissa and Rebecca Postoll.

The Lady Mustangs are also expecting diving points, with Alex Hart vying for another state title after winning in 2011. Jordan Shealy, Abby Martin and Rochelle Still are each capable of top-10 finishes.

“It’s wide-open,” Kennesaw Mountain coach David Reason said of the girls meet. “If you want to win, you can’t have a bad two days.”

In boys diving, Kell’s Austin Rives and Anthony Musciano have a shot in the other meet, which will pit teams from the other five classifications.

Pope will be the deepest Cobb program, led by Landon Bennett and Katie Bell. The Greyhounds were hit hard by graduation last year, and having rosters laden with sophomores and freshmen will likely prevent them from finishing in the top 10.

Allatoona’s Aja Malone will be going for a state title in the 100 butterfly after taking third last year and breaking the county record two weeks ago with a time of 55.18 seconds.
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