When did West Forsyth’s relay team know they’d won their races?
“Before the meet,” West junior Owen Holland said with a laugh.
Way before the meet.
Last year, as a matter of fact.
West returned all four swimmers – Jack Aikins, Brett Sasser, Griffin Egolf and Holland – from the relay team that broke the state record in the 200 free last season.
“We’ve been looking at people’s relay times throughout the season. We knew we had the ability to win it last year after our performance at state,” West senior Jack Aikins said. “We just wanted to go as fast as we could.”
The Wolverines’ relay team broke two more state records at the Class 7A state meet: the 200 free – again – and the 400 free.
West came six hundredths of a second from the 400 free record last year but left no doubt this season, posting a 3:03.13 that was more than four seconds faster than second-place Milton.
Most impressive was the Wolverines’ ability to shave more than a full second off their record-breaking 200 free time from last season, shattering the mark with a 1:22.56.
“I think it was a good way to go out, considering this is probably going to be the last time we’re ever going to swim with each other on the same relay,” said Aikins, who added a couple of individual wins in the 50 free and 100 free. “And to see how well we did in the nation – I think we placed second in the nation in that event. Along with the relay, and setting records in both, it was special.”
Aikins came within five hundredths of a second from the 50 free state record, which was set by Paul Powers in 2014.
In all, West had three swimmers place in the top four individually in the 50 free, with Sasser (3rd; 21.22) and Holland (4th; 21.39) finishing just behind Aikins.
Egolf enjoyed a third-place individual showing in the 200 IM (1:51.92).
“My sophomore year, going in I knew we had a really strong relay because I’ve been swimming with these three for a really long time,” Egolf said. “I kind of knew going in that we were going to have a strong showing. I just didn’t know exactly that we were going to show up and break that 200 free record. Then this year, we kind of already knew going in that we had a strong chance to break them both again. Me and Owen being juniors, it was really amazing being able to send off Jack and Brett in their senior year and end on such a high note.”
While West’s relay wins were predictable, sophomore Michelle Cummo wasn’t so sure about her chances in the 1-meter diving event.
But Cummo turned in a state championship performance in the event, besting a pair of seniors with a score of 549.65.
“I am really shocked, because I came into the meet not expecting to place,” Cummo said. “Once I saw my scores on the scoreboard, I was doing a lot better than I expected. It was just really surprising, but it’s really exciting.”
Cummo placed fifth in the event last year as a freshman, but she knew the returning field was tough.
“I did pretty well, but I also got a lot better within the year with practicing at Georgia Tech and stuff,” Cummo said. “So, I did improve personally a lot, but I did not expect to be better than the people I was competing with the year before.”
West swim coach Michele Heindl said she noticed Cummo’s fifth dive was especially precise and helped deliver the championship.
It was something of a home meet for Cummo, who trains with her club team at Georgia Tech. Cummo said she switched teams within the past year and has seen her diving become more consistent.
“It helped me a lot,” Cummo said. “I changed my entire approach, which became more consistent. I got a lot better within the time I was with him.”
West’s relay teams will lose Aikins and Sasser to graduation, but Egolf and Holland are already crafting next year’s relay team.
“We have a few in mind that we expect to step up and try to fill and role and try to be just as successful,” Egolf said. “Hopefully we can match the success we’ve had in the past.”
Aikins will swim at the University of Virginia, while Sasser will swim at Florida Atlantic.
Both sprinters said they are focused on weight training ahead of their collegiate careers.
“Just training as hard as I can to be the best I can whenever I step on the team,” Sasser said. “Also, I don’t really work out or anything, but I want to start getting into working out. My second semester of my senior year, I’m going to be transitioning into college, so I would like to have some background knowledge of how to lift weights properly and have some strength already to compete with the college kids in the weight room.”