Both the Columbus High boys and girls swimming and diving teams shined the brightest on Thursday in the Region 1-5A meet.
The boys finished off another first-place finish in the event, 472-383, with a thrilling fingertip victory over Northside in the 400 free relay, Chase Parker’s finger touching the wall .04 seconds ahead of Northside’s Jacob Abeyta. The girls, led by Ashlyn Steinbach and Allie Murphy, cruised to a 490-321 victory over second-place LaGrange.
Perhaps the biggest news coming out of the Columbus Aquatic Center, though, was the continued improvement of all the teams around the area. For the second year in a row, more than 10 meet records were surpassed, 20 in 2015 and 11 on Thursday. Ten of the records set a year ago came down in arguably the most competitive meet in recent memory.
“It just shows that swimming in the area is really coming into its own,” Columbus coach Karen Waters said. “They want it more. They swim competitively year round, and the Hurricanes have really prepared the kids.”
As gut wrenching as it is to have a closer meet, Waters said, she feels like the competition makes everyone that much better. And when they get to state, she’ll be rooting for other area swimmers in addition to her own.
“I want Jacob (Abeyta) to do well,” she said. “I want (Brookstone’s) Hannah (Mattson) to do well. Obviously, I want mine to do well. The better everyone does, the better swimming will be in Columbus.”
Thursday showed how quickly it is heading in that direction, too.
Mattson won two individual medals in the girls 200 individual medley and the girls 500 freestyle, setting meet records in both events. LaGrange’s Allie Paschal set individual records in the 50 freestyle and the 100 backstroke, as well as a record as part of the 200 medley relay team.
On the boys side, Abeyta set individual marks in the 100 butterfly and the 100 back, as well as one as part of the Northside 200 free relay team. Parker had records in the 500 free and 100 breast, and girls teammate Emma Hatta set the all-time diving mark at 156.75.
Now, 22 of the meet’s 24 event records have been set over the past two years.
“Things are looking brighter and brighter,” Waters said. “We all used to be satisfied just showing up at state. Now, everyone wants to have success there, as well.”
While Waters was thrilled for all the individual performances, her biggest excitement came during the final boys event that erased all doubt over her team’s level of success this year. Going into Thursday, she had expressed some concern over whether her boys team would be able to hold off the fast-improving Northside group.
When Parker erased a small, but challenging, deficit between himself and Abeyta over the final 100 yards, Waters could hardly contain her excitement. Not only was it a thrilling victory for the Blue Devils, but it qualified the relay team for the state meet and left Columbus with no loose ends to tie up over the final weeks.
“It was gut wrenching,” she said. “I had a feeling Chase would pull it out, but it was hard to watch. He just kept going back and forth and then at the end just took it. He refused to lose.”
The state meet will be held on Feb. 4-6 at Georgia Tech.
Boys 200 medley relay: Columbus-A, 1:53.15
Girls 200 medley relays: LaGrange-A, 1:55.20*
Boys 200 free: Taylor Nielsen, Northside, 1:56.36
Girls 200 free: Allie Murphy, Columbus, 2:00.65
Boys 200 IM: Jared Johnson, Harris County, 2:17.30
Girls 200 IM: Hannah Mattson, Brookstone, 2:12.93*
Boys 50 free: Jaxon Kite, Harris County, :24.19
Girls 50 free: Allie Paschal, LaGrange, :24.53*
Boys 1-meter diving: Shae Grover, Northside, 120.50
Girls 1-meter diving: Emma Hatta, Columbus, 156.75*
Boys 100 fly: Jacob Abeyta, Northside, :55.50*
Girls 100 fly: Ashlyn Steinbach, Columbus, :59.46*
Boys 100 free: Taylor Nielsen, Northside, :53.20
Girls 100 free: Allie Murphy, Columbus, :56.26
Boys 500 free: Chase Parker, Columbus, 4:56.54*
Girls 500 free: Hannah Mattson, Brookstone, 5:14.86*
Boys 200 free relay: Northside-A, 1:38.53*
Girls 200 free relay: Columbus-A, 1:47.16
Boys 100 back: Jacob Abeyta, Northside, :56.37*
Girls 100 back: Allie Paschal, LaGrange, 1:00.16*
Boys 100 breast: Chase Parker, Columbus, 1:04.03*
Girls 100 breast: Ashlyn Steinbach, Columbus, 1:09.80
Boys 400 free relay: Columbus-A, 3:40.16
Girls 400 free relay: Columbus-A, 3:51.09
* Meet record
Harris County 228
Harris County 168