But this year it seems like something is different. After beating runner-up Lassiter by 126 points Saturday, the Raiders showed they are a legitimate threat to parlay a county championship into a possible state title.
In previous county wins, Walton managed to score the bulk of their points by placing multiple swimmers in the top 10 in nearly every event. But they didn’t have enough top-tier swimmers to win many individual events.
This year, the Raiders won two relays and five individual events, which shows they have the star-power to either win a Class AAAAAA state meet or place in the top three. The past two seasons, the Raiders have finished eighth and 12th in state.
Jack Gunning, David Dingess and Thomas Kelley won at least one individual event at county Saturday and are capable of either winning or finishing among the top at state in their respective event.
“This year, our depth at county wasn’t just in finishing in the top 10 (in individual events),” Walton coach Mary Howell Hafner said. “We had so many first place finishers (this year) and that should help us perform better at state and improve our ranking.”
On the girls side, both Lassiter and Walton could be among the top five teams in state for years to come. Lassiter had won four straight titles from 2008-2011 with Walton taking third in 2009 and second in 2010.
Walton bested Lassiter by two points Saturday, and like the boys squads, both teams are stacked with depth. Both also have a crop of talented underclassmen on both teams led by Emma Cole (Walton) and Alexis Glunn (Lassiter), which could intensify the rivalry. Cole won the 200-yard freestyle and 500 freestyle and Glunn prevailed in the 200 individual medley and the 100 freestyle.
“It will be Lassiter and Walton for a while,” Kennesaw Mountain coach David Reason said. “We understand that. We don’t have to accept it, but we understand that.”
And there are many other teams seeking to earn the same respect and some appear to be getting closer, particularly the schools in west Cobb County. Both Kennesaw Mountain and Harrison teams took third and fourth at county, respectively.
The Kennesaw boys took third by placing in the top four in all three relays, highlighted by a second place showing in the 400 freestyle. The Mustangs also had their three most experienced swimmers – Thomas Locke, Devin Zumeran and Garrett Layde place in the top 10 of both their individual events.
Diving sparked the Kennesaw Mountain girls with four finishing in the top 10. Jordan Shealy won it with Rochelle Still taking third behind Lassiter’s Maddie Hester.
The Harrison boys also improved their top 10 depth and having Connor Maggio, Cory Mullins and Billy Rothery finish fourth, fifth and sixth in the 100 butterfly sparked the Hoyas. And Chris Contreras and Alec Mau taking second and fourth in the 200 IM also helped. The Harrison girls had strong showings in the relays, taking third and fourth in the 200 medley and 400 freestyle.
The Allatoona girls taking sixth is a proof that swimming is growing in west Cobb. The Lady Buccaneers were fourth in the 200 freestyle relay. Aja Malone won both the 50 freestyle and 100 butterfly and freshman Caitlyn McHugh took third in both the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle.
“We need a strong Harrison High School team to make us better,” Reason said. “Not only is it good for Cobb County but it’s good for west Cobb County. Allatoona taking sixth also signifies there is growth in west Cobb.”