All you have to do is watch Ally Zaleski’s hype video to see how Lambert’s season is going.
The boys team had a heartbreaking finish in the county tournament last year, losing by just a handful of points. Their four returning starters (Paddy Morris, Ford Johnson, Noah Seib and Ethan Kim) are all hungry to come back and take the county title back to Lambert.
Longhorns head coach Kerry Langley came up with four bullet points on how her team could accomplish that: Ace relay starts (double points); keep a positive attitude; focus on personal bests, not the swimmer next to you; stay high in team spirit.
The girls team expects to put up big points again this year after winning county and finishing fourth in Class 7A the year prior.
Langley said to expect Ella Jones, Kara West, Sarah Blackstone and Zaleski all to put up big points this year.
Lambert is not just swimming this weekend to bring the glory back to school with them. Last year, Faith Johnson was diagnosed with leukemia. Langley said her team has rallied around her all season and that schools all over the county supported Johnson through difficult times.
West is the boys team to beat after last year’s win at the county meet.
The Wolverines boast three Division I signings in Jack Aikins (University of Virginia), Brett Sasser (Florida Atlantic University) and June Phang (Air Force).
Aikins was a state champion in 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard freestyle last year and Sasser finished right behind in third place.
Phang is a leader on the girls team who finished ninth in the 100-yard fly. She is the only senior swimmer for a very young West girls’ team this year.
Wolverines head coach Michele Heindle said that if all perform to the best of their abilities on Saturday, she expects her team to walk away with “very happy results.”
“We have kids that lead through example,” Heindle said. “We have kids that step up and lead when times get rough, and we have kids who look out for and take care of their teammates.”
Forsyth Central already locked in a few swimmers for the state tournament, but the Bulldogs are looking to qualify some more during this weekend’s area championship.
The Bulldogs have a young roster this season and head coach Asheley Bell said she has been “pleasantly surprised” with how the team has performed in a year full of adversity.
“Our team has really pressed forward through adversity this season with cancelled meets and dealing with issues related to COVID,” Bell said. “I am happy to be here and happy my kids are getting a change to be in the pool.”
Freshman Caroline Scharff stepped up as a leader this year with not just her skillset, but her attitude and support of her teammates throughout the season. Bell added that Gabi Somoza continues to lead the divers.
Brother-sister duo Brooks and Avery Jennings have been swimming well all season and multi-sport athlete Brendan O’Sullivan continues to impress with his times.
“I think our overall focus this school year has been to grow and better ourselves as a team and individually.” Bell said. “We would need to be at 100% going into Saturday.”
Denmark comes into the meet with plenty of promise. The Danes’ roster is young but has performed well late in the season.
The girls team is led by freshman Rachel Warta and sophomore Natalie Gilson. As a freshman last year, Gilson finished fourth in the state in 50 free and eighth in the 100 free. She will be competing again for a state title this year.
Senior TJ Flores stepped up last season and finished second in the 200-yard individual medley at the county meet last year and hopes to take home this year’s title.
It’s not just North Forsyth’s boys to watch out for this year. Raiders head coach Tyler Martin said his biggest surprise of the season has been how great the girls’ team has been this year, winning several meets and having a few unexpected state qualifiers.
“I think our girls will be really competitive this weekend,” Martin said. “We have added some much-needed depth with some of the freshmen that has really propelled us this season.”
North returned 50 free champion and two-time Forsyth County News Swimmer of the Year Hailey Galbraith and team leader Bella Landis, who have anchored the girls' rise.
The boys team will return three of the four swimmers in the relays that qualified for the B finals at the state tournament last year. Owen Brubaker, Logan Cornelison and Will Riley all swam exceptionally well and will expect to repeat their success on Saturday.
“Forsyth County swimming and diving is super competitive and gets better every year, so it's an uphill climb for any team to win the championship because each team has a lot of talent that they bring to table,” Martin said. “I think to win a championship you have to win at least two of the three relays and have several swimmers finish inside the top 10.”
South Forsyth also boasts an impressive girls team. TCU signee Jordan Edwards returns to a team that finished 11th at state last year, with Edwards finishing sixth individually in the 100 fly and 10th individually in the breast stroke.
Caroline Blair finished 19th in the 200 IM and expects to swim aggressively to move up the scoreboard in her junior season. Sophomore McKinlee Taublee was a sixth-place finisher in the 1-meter dive last year and only expects to improve on that finish.
South head coach Kate Bergdahl said that she loved how creative her team got this season to make this season feel as normal as possible. Now the team is ready to compete for the county championship.