CHAPEL HILL — It was years in the making, so Chapel Hill’s sweep of swimming rival East Chapel Hill in a tri-meet with Riverside was quite satisfying last week.
“It’s always an important meet, and our swimmers always take it seriously,” Chapel Hill coach Steve Riegler said. “It’s been a long time since we beat East Chapel Hill, longer since we swept them.”
The event originally was planned as a PAC-6 dual meet between 4A East Chapel Hill and Durham Riverside.
The annual showdown between Chapel Hill and East almost never came off this year. Both schools had schedules crammed with conference opponents, with little room for each other. They had to get Riverside to agree to sharing the pool with Chapel Hill, a 3A Big Eight program.
After it was over Tuesday night at Homestead Aquatic Center, Riverside may have wanted to reconsider its acquiescence.
Chapel Hill out-pointed Riverside 140-21 in the boys’ meet and 132-37 in the girls’ events. But that was just icing on the Tigers’ sweet wins against East Chapel Hill – 89.5 to 80.5 in the boys’ meet and 110-60 in the girls’ meet.
“The guys were stunned,” East coach Lyn Smith said later. “We were missing a lot of swimmers, but we felt they could pull out a win.
“The girls were behind the 8-ball going into it. But it was still very hard on them. They hadn’t lost to Chapel Hill 2007. It’s been since 2008 for the boys.”
East found some solace in sweeping Riverside by more than 100 points in both the boys’ and girls’ meets, maintaining the Wildcats’ streak of a decade of consecutive wins against PAC-6 opponents.
The Wildcats, who came into the year with two-thirds as many swimmer as last year’s 97-strong roster, were missing even more Tuesday night, their number cut to less than 40 by illnesses, conflicts with other activities, and even an orchestra concert in which some of the athletes were performing.
But Smith said the biggest factor was that “Chapel Hill had a lot of outstanding talent and simply out touched us in the meet.”
Chapel Hill junior Anabelle Durham, who won a state title as a ninth-grader in the 100 backstroke, got things rolling for the Tigers with her leadoff leg for the winning 200 medley relay. She later won the individual 100 backstroke and swam a leg on the winning 400 free relay.
Kaitlin Jones (50 freestyle, 100 breaststroke) and Claire DeSelm (200 individual medley, 100 butterfly) each earned a pair of first places for Chapel Hill. Each also swam a leg for Chapel Hill’s winning 200 medley relay team.
Individual winners for the Chapel Hill boys included C.J. Eron in the 50 freestyle.
East had three double winners: Koya Osada (boys’ 200 IM, 100 back); Michael Wohl (boys’ 200 and 100 free); and Morgan Smith (girls’ 200 and 100 free). East’s Oliver Hudgins won the boys’ 100 fly, and teammate Liam McCullough won the 100 breaststroke.
DeSelm, a sophomore, exemplified the youth and depth of Chapel Hill’s talent. DeSelm was followed to the wall in the 200 IM by ninth-grader Uma Knaven and sophomore Sarah Taekman for a 1-2-3 Chapel Hill finish.
Knaven later won the girls’ grueling 500 free, followed to the wall by ninth-grade teammate Jaylen Forrest and sophomore Natalie Thomas for another trifecta.
In the next event, Chapel Hill got another 1-2-3 sweep in the boys’ 500 free, with Josh Taekman taking first, freshman Jacob Werden second and sophomore Eli Rose third.
That all but locked up the girls’ meet for Chapel Hill and gave the Tigers a good lead on the boys’ side. But the boys’ meet stayed close all the way to the end.
The schools split the last relays East winning the girls’ 200 free and the boys’ 400, Chapel Hill winning the boys’ 200 free and the girls’ 400. The Tigers weren’t confident of winning the boys’ meet until it took second and third in the final 400 free relay.
“The girls have always had close meets, but we dominated Tuesday’s meet,” Riegler said. “It just shows the depth of our team – probably the best it’s ever been”
Chapel Hill’s girls remained unbeaten in dual meets, at 6-0, while the boys (5-1) have lost only once, in a close meet with Cardinal Gibbons.
“That Gibbons meet came down to the last relay,” Riegler said. “We were missing several year-round swimmers at that meet. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next time we meet Gibbons; we should have everyone there for that one.”