Jefferson swim team set for state after sweep of district, league titles
ONE OF the most special seasons in Jefferson Sea Dragon history could become even more special this weekend.
The youth swim team already pulled off the rare feat of winning both district and league titles in the same week and now has its sights set on this Friday and Saturday’s state meet in Tifton.
“Our team has really worked hard this year and have rallied around each other,” coach Tess Nunnally said. “At the beginning of the season, our swimmers made goals for themselves and for our team. So far, we are surpassing our goals.”
The Sea Dragons accomplished two of those goals within a span of five days this past week.
Jefferson knocked off Oconee County and six other teams last Tuesday to win the District 7 championship. Four days later, the Sea Dragons defeated the Stingrays out of Gwinnett County to win the 18-team North Georgia Swimming League championship.
At district, Jefferson finished with 2,839.5 points to Oconee County’s 2,050 with 45 kids qualifying in 53 individual events and 19 relay events. The top three swimmers in each event earn a spot at state.
Assistant coach and team manager Chad Klinck pointed out that Karly Bartoletta, Gracie Beem, Avrie Crum, William Johnson, Joshua Joransen and Nick Joransen “had some really great swims at district.”
Klinck also noted that 24 boys qualifying for state is a sign that the boys’ team is on the rise.
The Sea Dragons came close to sending even more swimmers to state with 12 fourth-place finishers at district.
At the league meet Saturday, Jefferson at last took down the Stingrays, a program armed with 128 swimmers. The Sea Dragons finished with 884 points to the Stingrays’ 774.
The Sea Dragons managed a rare distinction at the league meet — winning the high-point trophy in every female age group.
Those winners were Ansley Nunnally (6U), Lauren Green (8U), Alyssa Bartoletta (10U), McKenzie Klinck (12U), Haley Bartoletta (14U) and Camille Porter (18U). Karly Bartoletta was the runner up in the 10U group. On the boys’ side, C.J. Guzman won the high-point award for the 14U division.
Klinck said it has taken the Sea Dragon program nine years to build comparable numbers to the Stingray to be able to unseat them.
“You have to have quality swimmers in every age group for both boys and girls to compete with a team as large and as good as the Stingrays,” Klinck said. “We have been second the last three years basically due to a shortage of boys and older swimmers. This year, the boys answered the challenge and significantly improved their showing.”
Even though the Sea Dragons were one of the larger teams they were still outnumbered by the Stingrays 128-99.
“We had to swim 30 percent better to win,” Klinck said.
Klinck pointed to the efforts of two swimmers, Cole Holbrook and Nic Aquila.
“Nic and Cole really dedicated themselves to swimming the past year and have really raised everyone’s game.”
The Sea Dragons — who competed Monday night in a meet against Athens — will now make the long trip to Tifton where the team hopes to bring home even more hardware at the combined boys’ and girls’ GRPA state championship.
Nunnally is eager to see what her team can do.
“I am so proud of each and every swimmer,” Nunnally said. “I am very excited about our state meet in Tifton. I truly believe we can bring home numerous state titles as well as a team state title.”