The Lambert girls swimming team won its second consecutive Class AAAAAA championship on Saturday, pulling away from Johns Creek late to take the crown.
Freshman Jane Johnson placed third in the 100-yard breaststroke — the second to last event of the night — edging one of Johns Creek’s swimmers by 0.03 seconds to earn the bronze medal.
That triumph gave the Lady Longhorns all the points they needed. All they had to do was avoid disqualification in the final event, the 400-yard freestyle relay.
With a conservative mindset, Lambert finished that event unscathed. Its quartet of Aubrey Jones, Emma Fish, Joonyoung Lee and Katherine Aikins placed third and clinched back-to-back titles.
“We sacrificed our friends, we sacrificed our families, we sacrificed studies for this,” said Lambert head coach Kerry Langley. “It’s almost like magic, like an Olympic spirit needed to pull it out in the end. And they all did that in the end.
“They did what they had to do. They’re amazing athletes and, when it came down to it, I expected them to win.”
Lambert finished with 279 points, 33 points ahead of Johns Creek. While the Lady Longhorns had a commanding lead through much of the night, the Gladiators had swung the momentum in their favor and had the gold trophy in their sights.
But Johnson effectively prevented that comeback with her strong showing in the 100 breaststroke — giving herself and the rest of Lambert’s freshman class her first state championship.
“It was really exciting,” Johnson said. “I think I did well because I could hear my team cheering on. It means a lot and I’m really thankful for all the people there.”
Lambert got the night started well with a win in its first event -- 200 medley relay. Megan Bestor, Ashley, Mallon, Jane Johnson and Aikins combined for a 1:44:53 time, almost a full second ahead of second place Brookwood.
The momentum continued to build as the Lady Longhorns continued to win medals. Bestor, Emma Fish, Aubrey Jones and Aikins won the 200 freestyle relay, Bestor finished second in the 100 backstroke and Aikins earned silver in the 500 freestyle.
“I’m really exciting about it,” said Jones, a senior captain. “I’m really proud of my team and what we did. We worked really hard for it.”
“It is amazing and unbelievable,” said senior Ashton Toth, whose twin sister Bailey is also on the team. “You just start shaking and crying because you don’t know what to do with yourself. It was a group effort.
“It means more than you can say.
Langley praised the team’s work ethic and talent, and the swimmers praised their coach. The Lady Longhorns’ team has a cohesive, family-like feel to it, and that begins with leadership.
“Coach is amazing,” Ashton Toth said. “She’s like my mom and she’s the strongest person I know. I don’t know how she does what she does on her own. She stays strong through it all and she’s the best coach you could have in your life.
With such a talented freshman class, the future of Longhorn swimming appears to be bright. They’ll bask in the glory of this championship for now, and eventually focus on their next major goal: the trifecta.
“Yes, I think we can do it,” said Johnson. “It’s definitely possible.”