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Swimming & Diving: Crimson tidal wave
Lambert girls trounce field to win first state title
Lamberts girls swimming team racked up 292 points to win the Class 6A state championship on Saturday at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center in Atlanta. The Lady Longhorns have improved each of the four seasons they have been competiing, finishing sixth in 2011 and second in 2012. - photo by For the Forsyth County News

ATLANTA — There was little doubt Lambert’s girls would end up anywhere but first.

After finishing in sixth place in 2011 and second place by 16 points last season, the Lady Longhorns didn’t leave anything to chance. They trounced the nearest competition by 70 points and racked up a total of 292 points to win the Class 6A state swimming and diving title — the program’s first in any classification — on Saturday at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center.

The team placed third or better five times, including first place finishes in the 200-yard medley relay and the 200-yard freestyle relay.

"These girls did such a great job," Lambert first-year head coach Kerry Langley said. "They practiced so much and now they got what they deserved. The work they put in and all the time they spent [practicing] showed."

"To win by 70 points is just — they’re all just great kids. Smart and talented and I’m so proud of all of them."

Lambert trailed midway through the 200-yard medley relay, but a strong effort from freshman Katherine Aikins on the anchor leg of the race was enough to top Lassiter High School and earn Aikins, Megan Bestor, Ashley Mallon and Ellie Sills a gold medal by only seven hundredths of a second.

Aikins, who earned the nickname "Killer" by Langley, worked her magic again in the 200-yard freestyle relay.

The Lady Longhorns’ relay team of Aikins, Bestor, Emma Fish and Aubrey Jones was in third for the majority of the race until Aikins jumped off the block during the anchor leg and inched closer to the leader. She made her move on the final turn and darted past the leader with a few yards left to pick up first place by two hundredths of a second.

"I just wanted it really badly," Aikins said. "The last 25 [yards] I was just trying not to breathe and give it my all. I was getting a bit nervous at the end, but I’m glad we could do it.

"It was surprising [that I got to the wall first] and we were all so excited."

Jones won fifth in the 200-yard freestyle and 100-yard breaststroke, while Bestor earned the same spot in the 100-yard butterfly and claimed third in the backstroke.

Aikins racked up more points for Lambert in the 50-yard freestyle, where she took third to extend the lead to 44 points over then-second place Lassiter High School.

Sills and Mallon could only rest for 30 minutes before they competed in the 200-yard individual medley. The lack of rest didn’t show, as Sills won second and Mallon placed fifth. Sills nearly won first, but Walton’s Kira De Bruyn held on to win by less than two tenths of a second.

The relay team of Sills, Fish, Gentry Anderson and Jones attempted to sweep all three relay finals, but fell short in the 400-yard freestyle and settled for bronze. Even with the third place finish, the Lambert girls extended the lead for a final time to a gaudy 70 points over second place Peachtree Ridge.

Langley expected the Lady Longhorns to win first, but was shocked at the amount of points they tallied.

"They exceeded [my expectations]," Langley said. "I thought it was going to be a lot closer, like 20 or so, but the freshmen rounded up and everyone did a great job."

North Forsyth finished 17th, West Forsyth 19th and South Forsyth 23rd in the girls’ Class 6A division out of 29 teams, while Pinecrest Academy claimed 16th and Forsyth Central 35th in the Class A-5A standings out of 44 teams.

In the boys’ division, Pinecrest placed 16th and Central took 35th out of 54 teams. South took 22nd, West 25th and Lambert 34th out of 34 teams.

North’s Kaylyn Thomas won bronze in the 200-yard freestyle and took home fourth place in the 100-yard freestyle.

"I had no idea I was going to get [third]," said Thomas about the 200-yard freestyle. "I was trying not to be nervous and calm my nerves and just be happy for everyone else and absorb the environment.

"I’m really happy to finish third, [but] I would love to get first place next year. I’m really thankful for my coaches and everyone who supported me."

South’s Blake Atmore placed sixth in the 100-yard butterfly and Alexandra Flemington took eighth place in the girls’ 100-yard freestyle.

The Lady Wolverines’ Hanna King took seventh in the diving competition and Cameron Van De Velde tied for seventh in the boys’ 100-yard butterfly.

Pinecrest’s Christian Marchione led the boys’ team with a sixth place finish in the 50-yard freestyle, while Central’s Brandon Gross boasted fifth in the 100-yard freestyle.