Three seasons in the Metrolina Athletic Conference, three league titles for the SouthLake Christian Academy boys and girls swim teams.
On Feb. 11, the Eagles, who are in just their fourth year as a program, motored to a pair of MAC championships for the third consecutive season.
The SouthLake Christian girls, paced by two first-place finishes by Taylor Wilson and a school-record-breaking performance from Moriah Anderson, racked up 461 points and posted a comfortable win over second-place Matthews Covenant Day (359).
In the boys competition, Austin Meletiou’s effort in the 100-yard breaststroke shattered a school record and helped the Eagles score 427 points – 12 more than Covenant Day – to secure the title.
Despite some top-flight performances from some underclassmen, SouthLake coach Gary Anderson was especially happy for the squad’s seniors.
“It’s been a tremendous year for the team, especially for the seniors,” Anderson said. “We’re four years old, so this is our first full high school senior class. For them, they were just hoping to build on the legacy that the other two senior classes have built, so everybody was extremely excited.
“It was a huge thing for the school and for the team. Now they’re really motivated as we get ready for states.”
The N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 1A/2A meet takes place Monday, Feb. 21, at the Rock Hill (S.C.) Aquatic Center. And after their showing at the MAC meet last week, the Eagles are poised to do well.
For the SouthLake girls squad, Wilson medaled in each of her four events. Individually, she won the 200 individual medley (2 minutes, 18.19 seconds) and 100 breaststroke (1:10.87). Teaming with Taylor Harkey, Brittany Bisese and Anderson, Wilson anchored a gold medal-winning 200 freestyle relay squad (1:54.72). The same quartet took second place in the 200 medley relay (2:05.57).
Although Anderson finished second in the 100 butterfly, here time in the event (1:16.05) was more than two seconds faster than the school record set in 2008.
Other strong SouthLake girls performers included Hannah Culbreth, who was second in the 500 freestyle (6:47.91); Carolyn Collins, who was second in the 100 breaststroke (1:15.66); and Harkey, who was third in the 100 backstroke (1:13.92). The SouthLake foursome of Felecia Rotella, Collins, Taylor Rock and Ashton Rotella finished third in the 400 freestyle relay (4:34.99).
Meletiou, just an eighth-grader, was the sole SouthLake boy to win an individual event, and he did it in dynamic fashion. In the 100 breaststroke, Meletiou clocked in in 1:11.24 to eclipse the school record set last year by Michael Gonzalez.
Meletiou also was on a pair of second-place relay teams: In the 200 medley relay, he was joined by Matt Belter, John Baker and Ryan Scott to finish in 1:51.71; in the 400 relay, Meltiou, Joseph Szilagy, Joseph Bryan and Vasili Dounis posted a time of 4:16.80.
However, SouthLake ran away with the 200 freestyle relay title, as Belter, Dounis, Baker and Scott dashed in in 1:44.90, nearly four seconds faster than the next-closest squad.
Baker, Belter and Scott each medaled in two individual events: Baker was second in both the 100 butterfly (58.55) and 500 free (5:28.28); Belter was second in the 200 IM (2:23.38) and 100 backstroke (1:04.99); and Scott was second in the 100 free (57.57) and third in the 50 free (25.42).
Dounis was second in the 200 freestyle (2:15.86), while Andrew VanWingerden was third in the 200 IM (2:27.04).
Unlike a lot of coaches, Anderson isn’t superstitiously trying to keep his team from talking about how well it can perform at the state meet. In fact, Anderson openly discusses how well he thinks the team should do next week.
“Our first year, we didn’t know what we were doing so much, and we were 10th in the girls and 12th in the guys,” he said. “The second time, we turned it around radically – the girls were fourth and the guys were fifth. Last year, we were both in fifth place.
And this year, we really should finish in the top three or four.”
Anderson’s encouraging his swimmers to use last week’s conference titles as confidence builders.
“What we do is build on it – we use that momentum and that excitement,” Anderson said. “In fact, I told them at practice (on Feb. 14) that the conference championship is like the banana split or the cake or whatever, and states is just the icing. One of them said, ‘Well, what about the whipped cream?’ I said, ‘Well, all right, the whipped cream with a cherry on it!’
“Either way, it’s the grand finale, and we want to do well.”