Ledger-Enquirer announces 2019 All-Bi-City Swimming Team
It’s a mix of familiar and new names among the top award winners on the Ledger-Enquirer’s 2019 All-Bi-City Swimming Team.
Columbus junior Fabrizzio Orderique is the Boys Swimmer of the Year, matching the accolade his brother Jorge received in 2014.
And the Coach of the Year — for the seventh time in her eight seasons — is Karen Waters of Columbus.
Local coaches and the L-E made the selections.
“It’s very encouraging,” Jordan said. “… It just shows all my hard work is paying off.”
Her hard work includes averaging 15 hours of practice per week.
“I have to sacrifice some part of my social life,” she said.
But her sacrifice is worth it, Jordan said, when she collects a pile of medals for outstanding performances, such as:
▪ Region — four first places: 500 freestyle (5:14.57), 200 freestyle (1:58.24), 200 freestyle relay (1:44.88 with sophomore Libby Storey, freshman Catherine Kennedy and senior Kaleigh Feger) and 400 freestyle relay (3:49.91 with freshman Macy Sanders, junior Katheryn Livingston and junior Madigan Starr).
▪ State – in Class 4A-5A, second place in the 500 freestyle (5:04.24), fourth place in the 200 freestyle (1:55.61), fourth place in the 400 freestyle relay (3:40.66 with Livingston, Sanders and Starr) and fifth place in the 200 freestyle relay (1:42.50 with Feger, Sanders and junior Lindsey Conroy).
Jordan’s favorite memory from this season, she said, is her second-place finish in the 500 freestyle at the state meet.
“All my teammates were cheering me on,” she said. “I could see them on the side of the pool.”
Waters praised Jordan’s leadership and team spirit.
“She never brags about anything,” Waters said. “She just gets in and does what she needs to do. … I can’t say enough about Katie. I could see her being captain next year. She leads in a quiet way. Every swimmer respects her, and she respects every swimmer, whether they just started out or they’re on her level. She’s extremely competitive and driven, and I don’t see anything stopping her. I don’t see why she won’t be swimming in college, very possibly at a Division I school.”
After winning it by herself the previous three years, Mattson is sharing the Girls Swimmer of the Year award with a high school rival who also is a Columbus Hurricanes club teammate
“I’m so honored,” she said. “It’s really a privilege. … It’s just incredible to be able to do this, especially to share it with Katie. I’ve swum with her for six years. I love Katie. We push each other. She’s well-deserving.”
Mattson won two individual events at this year’s region/area meet: the 50-yard freestyle (24.88) and a meet record in the 100 freestyle (54.03).
Mattson’s four-year state medal haul totals five silvers and one gold, helping her secure a scholarship to Auburn University, where she plans to major in biomedical sciences to eventually become a neurosurgeon.
Even considering her individual success, Mattson said, her favorite memory from this season was helping the Brookstone girls finish 12th in the Class 1A-3A 200 freestyle relay at the state meet (1:47.08 with junior Ashley Lewis, junior Ada Bickerstaff and sophomore Rebecca Calhoun).
“Just seeing their faces when they realized we made the finals in the top 30, this was the big leagues for them,” she said.
Brookstone swimming coach David Cowser noted that, while many swimmers specialize in one stroke, Mattson is competitive in all four. During her high school career, she had state-qualifying performances 44 times, he said.
“She is good and talented and just amazing to watch,” he said. “… She understands how to race. She knows when to kick it in. She knows when to slow down the pace and preserve her energy. She is dedicated to getting better and improving every year. … But she is one of the most humble athletes I’ve ever met.”
Cowser is grateful to Mattson for being the team’s de facto assistant coach, taking time from her own training. Out of the team’s 25 swimmers, she helped approximately 20 of them improve their performances. Five of them qualified for the state meet for the first time, giving Brookstone a total of 10 state qualifiers this year — the most in the program’s history.
“She is so willing to help out in any way possible,” Cowser said. “She swims with the (club team) Columbus Hurricanes, so she pulls a double practice to help our swimmers with their technique and starts. … She’s a leader, and she does what it takes to help others succeed.”
Orderique was first-team All-Bi-City as a freshman and as a sophomore. Being named the Boys Swimmer of the Year was one of his goals — to equal his brother — but he thought it was more realistic as a senior.
“So to get it as a junior,” he said, “I’m stoked.”
At this year’s region meet, Orderique finished first four times: 200 individual medley (2:11.25), 500 freestyle (5:10.63), 200 freestyle relay (1:38.57 with junior Matthew Woods, senior Simon Jiang and sophomore Will Beatty) and the 400 freestyle relay (3:32.10 with Woods, Beatty and sophomore Madison Park).
In the 400 freestyle relay, Orderique swam the anchor leg. He estimated he was a half second behind when he dived into the pool. So when he touched the wall first, “I heard a bunch of celebration, but you never know which team won until you look up at the board. My heart was beating so fast.”
At this year’s state meet, Orderique was the only local boy to score individual points. He finished 11th in the Class 4A-5A 100 butterfly (52.73) and 11th in the 500 freestyle (4:58.32). He also helped the Columbus boys score points in the 400 freestyle relay, finishing 14th (3:31.05 with Beatty, Park and Woods).
Orderique likes the combination of individual and team competition the sport of swimming offers, but he emphasizes the team part.
“It’s the essence of being part of a team that makes you motivated to go faster,” he said. “You might not necessarily believe in yourself, but to have someone backing you up and always cheering you on no matter what, it encourages not only the slowest person but the top person as well.”
Waters described Orderique as “just driven. He wants to do everything, and he wants to do everything the best. He will do any event I ask him to do. I can’t say enough great things about Fabrizzio. He will sit there and be talking to the freshmen one minute, and the next, he’ll be talking to the seniors. He does what he needs to do in the pool, and just in general, his future is extremely bright.”
As the only swimmer enshrined in the Chattahoochee Valley Sports of Hall of Fame in its 23-year history when she was inducted in 2018, Waters embodies the growth of swimming at Columbus High and in the city.
During her childhood in Columbus, she was a record-breaking swimmer in the state at various ages, nationally ranked and won the 100 freestyle at the Junior Nationals at age 14. She continued breaking state records in high school, even though she was Columbus High’s only swimmer as a sophomore and junior. She convinced her sister and two friends to join her as a senior, and they won the medley relay at the state meet in 1986.
Waters became an All-American swimmer at the University of Georgia. Although she didn’t reach the Olympics, her experience motivated her to become a coach.
Now, as a math teacher at Columbus High, she has developed the swimming team into a consistently successful program, producing state contenders who go on to swim in college. Waters must cut approximately 20 girls and 10 boys to keep the roster around 55 total, she said.
Waters is glad more local high schools have added swimming programs since only Columbus, Hardaway, Northside and Shaw had one when she started coaching the Blue Devils eight years ago. Carver, Jordan, Harris County, Brookstone, Pacelli and Cavalry Christian have joined them.
And since 2013, local teams have had a state-of-the-art natatorium, the Columbus Aquatic Center, in which to practice and compete. No swimming facility in Georgia and outside of Atlanta is better, Waters said.
“It still blows my mind,” Waters gushed about the growth of local swimming. “I feel like it’s a testament to the sport. A lot of times, kids aren’t necessarily baseball stars or basketball stars or whatever else with a ball, and they just find that niche with swimming.”
Despite more local competition, the Blue Devils continue to dominate. This year, the Columbus girls team won the region/area championship for what Waters believes was the 18th straight year, and the Columbus boys won the team title for the 15th straight year.
At the state meet, the Blue Devils were the highest local finishers. In Class 4A-5A, the Columbus girls were third with 255 points — oh-so close to second-place St. Pius (256) and first-place Chamblee (262). The Columbus boys finished 41st out of the 68 Class 4A-5A teams that scored points.
“My senior class is not necessarily the strongest swimming-wise,” Waters said, “but the leadership they provided is incredible.”
Recovering from surgery meant Waters couldn’t coach the Blue Devils for part of November and all of December. But assistant coach Amanda Eckenrode, who teaches English at Chattahoochee County High School, filled in along with the senior Blue Devils.
“She was a big help, but the seniors really had to step up,” Waters said. “It’s an impossible job for anyone to do with that many swimmers.”
Talk to the students about their coach, and it’s clear Waters helps them excel for reasons beyond teaching them technique and strategy.
Orderique called Waters “persistent and dedicated. … She will not give up on you. She’s very team-centered. She translates that kind of positive energy into a team-first mentality for everyone else. She’s always your loudest supporter. You hear everyone cheering, but she definitely stands out. Having that leader brings out the best in us.”
LEDGER-ENQUIRER 2019 ALL-BI-CITY SWIMMING TEAM
The L-E thanks Muscogee County School District athletics director Jeff Battles for coordinating the selection process. Coaches at each high school in the Columbus area were invited to nominate students and coaches. The coaches met to discuss the nominations and voted on the selections.
Co-Girls Swimmers of the Year: Columbus junior Katie Jordan and Brookstone senior Hannah Mattson.
Boys Swimmer of the Year: Columbus junior Fabrizzio Orderique.
Coach of the Year: Karen Waters of Columbus.
Girls first team: Calvary Christian – junior Ellie Taunton; Columbus – junior Lindsey Conroy, senior Kaleigh Feger, senior Olivia Hinton, freshman Susan Jiang, freshman Catherine Kennedy, junior Katheryn Livingston, freshman Macy Sanders and junior Madigan Starr; Harris County – sophomore Renae Mattson.
Boys first team: Calvary Christian – senior Matthew Prescott; Columbus – sophomore Will Beatty, senior Simon Jiang and junior Matthew Woods; Harris County – freshman Aidan Best, sophomore Alex McKeown, junior Joseph Porter and sophomore Cameron Verdree; Northside – junior Max Myers; Shaw – sophomore Hugues Demay.
Girls honorable mention: Brookstone – sophomore Rebecca Calhoun and junior Ashley Lewis; Calvary Christian – senior Mary Howard; Columbus – sophomore Sara Conroy, senior Angela Howard, junior Jade Rickman and sophomore Libby Storey; Hardaway – sophomore Emily Harkness; Northside – sophomore Arya Kokate; Shaw – sophomore Jessie Mayne.
Boys honorable mention: Brookstone – junior Stephen Bunn and sophomore Jaxon Veal; Carver – sophomore Avondre Sutherland; Columbus – sophomore Chance Chung, freshman Owen Hartshorn, sophomore Madison Park and junior Wes Parker; Hardaway – senior Charlie Reed.
Mark Rice, 706-576-6272, @MarkRiceLE.