By Budd McLaughlin
The Athens High girls swim team set a goal of finishing in the top three in this year’s AHSAA state Swimming & Diving Championships.
They not only achieved that goal, but the young Eagles set a state record at the two-day competition at Auburn..
“They had their eyes on it,” said coach Anna Underwood. “Our goal was to finish in the top three.”
Last year, Athens finished seventh in the competition which includes all 1A-6A schools..
The Lady Eagles quartet of eighth-grader Kobie Melton, juniors Lindsey Martin and Ellen Haapoja and Mallory Underwood won the 200 freestyle in a record 1:38.50 and
finished second in the 200 medley in 1:49.29 behind the efforts of Melton, Underwood, Katelynn Melton and Haapoja.
Their time bettered the state record set by Auburn in Friday’s prelims. However, the Tigers posted a 1:47.55 in the finals to win the gold.
Underwood, a freshman, was a double individual medal-winner. She captured the gold in the 100 breaststroke with a time 1:04.16 and was clocked at 2:06.23 in her silver-medal winning performance in the 200 individual medley. Martin finished 16th in the IM with a time of 2:20.45.
Also scoring for the Lady Eagles were Melton (59.87) and Martin (1:02.12) in the 100 backstroke; Martin in the 200 IM in 2:20.45;Haapoja posted a time of 54.94 to finish 11th in the 100 breaststroke; and the 400 freestyle relay team of Katelynn Melton, Julz Welcher, Emma Preston and Martin finished 12th in 3:54.19.
The team’s record-setting swim was among five state records set in the girls competition.
Auburn won the girls title with 239.2 points. Athens finished second with 154 points, followed by McGill-Toolen (145.4) and Huntsville (140). A total of 36 girls teams competed.
Huntsville’s boys totaled 261 points to claim the championship. Bob Jones was second with 234 points, McGill-Toolen (204) third and Auburn (193) fourth.
Underwood said the girls’ success was throughout the lineup, not just with the point-scorers.
“The neat thing about it is they all achieved a personal best,” the sixth-year coach said.
The team is also young, with just one senior, so there’s a pretty good chance Athens will have an even better showing next year.
“I am proud of them, obviously,” said Underwood. “They represented Athens with a lot of class and sportsmanship.
“This is a great group of girls.”