For the second straight year, a Cartersville High head coach with the last name Surrett was forced into the pool after the Bartow County Swim Championships.
In 2018, it was Mindy Surrett, who helped led the Canes to the title in her final season with the program. This time around, it was her daughter, Hannah, who took the plunge along with assistant coach Kim Rentz after Cartersville finished first in the girls, boys and overall divisions, while also adding the top individual swimmers, during a dominant showing Saturday in Adairsville.
Hannah Surrett had, thankfully, been forewarned of the tradition of the winning team’s coach being forced into the water, so she brought a change of clothes.
“Just in case, I was prepared,” said Surrett, who swam for the Canes from 2009-13.
While the Canes barely edged out a strong Adairsville girls group by a 17-point margin, Cartersville outpaced second-place Cass on the boys side by 45 points. In total, Cartersville put up 322 points; Adairsville finished with 224; Cass piled up 158; and Woodland wound up with 90.
“I was so proud of every single one of them for pushing themselves in the offseason to come into these meets in swim season, do so well and drop time in almost every single meet,” Surrett said of her girls. “… It was so great to see all of my boys do well, too, because none of them actually swim on year-round teams. Some of them will swim on the Cobias summer league, but none of them swim year round. To see them improve so much from the beginning of the season to where they are now, to see how hard they work and how much they push themselves during the meet, it’s just really encouraging as a coach to see their dedication to the sport.”
Cartersville senior Bryson Rogers emerged as the boys individual champion, while Canes Giulia Vidoli and Grayson Breedlove tied for the top girls honor. Vidoli also won the girls title last year.
Rogers took first in the 200-yard individual medley in a time of 2:34.52. He added a narrow victory over Cass standout Eli Wilhoit in the 100-yard butterfly. Rogers also participated in both 200-yard relay events, as the Canes won the medley and placed second in the freestyle to the Colonels. Watson Milam, Nate McDonald and Carson Teems joined Rogers on the medley team.
Vidoli, a sophomore, and Breedlove, a junior, each posted two individual wins and also combined with Cartersville teammates for a pair of relay titles.
Vidoli was victorious in the 100 and 200 free, beating out the challenge of Adairsville’s Mallory Cook on both occasions; Breedlove topped the podium in the 200 IM and 500 free, absolutely blowing the competition, well, out of the water in each; the pair combined with Rachel Long, who added an individual first-place medal in the 100-yard breaststroke, and Gracie Siniard for victories in the 200 medley and 400 free.
Vidoli has reached the threshold to compete at state in the 100 backstroke and 100 free, while Breedlove also has qualified in the 100 backstroke. The Cartersville girls and Adairsville girls have both qualified all three relay teams (200 medley, 200 free and 400 free) for state.
The Tigers, as usual, were led Saturday by the steady contributions of senior Rylee Moss. The Old Dominion signee placed first in the 100-yard backstroke and 100-yard butterfly. She also joined Cook, Harper Powell and Josie Siniard on second-place relay teams in the 200 medley and 400 free.
“She won that fourth spot Friday afternoon,” Adairsville coach Shawn Williams said of Siniard, a freshman. “I did a swim off to see who was going to be our No. 4, and she beat everybody in the 50 and the 100.”
Powell added a personal victory in the 50 free, finishing in 25.95 seconds, beating her state-qualifying time from the previous weekend. The other two Adairsville wins came on the boys side, where the Tigers had just four varsity swimmers, Evan Crane eased to victory in the 100 backstroke and Daniel Carrillo gutted out a win in the grueling 500 free.
“This meet is scored a little differently, so you really got to be the fastest and have the fastest team, if you’re going to win county,” Williams said. “We’re just not there yet. We just don’t have the depth. If we would have had four more boys, … we would have won that meet.”
Along with his runner-up finish in the 100 butterfly, Wilhoit led Cass with an individual win in the 200 free and first-leg performances in the 200-free and 400-free relays. Solon Harris, Jackson Jones and Griffin Howard teamed up with Wilhoit in the former event, while Brenden Hickman, Levi McCrary and Caleb Doolittle joined the senior in the latter.
Jones also helped the Colonels with a 100 breaststroke triumph in 1 minute, 23.02 seconds.
“Our team did very well,” Cass coach Danny Fairbanks said of Saturday’s performance, adding that Wilhoit and Howard are hoping to qualify for state at some point in the next few meets. “Had a bunch of kids that exceeded their performances in the past. That’s our goal for each and every meet — to try to get better and better throughout the year. We had a bunch of them that did that.”
Woodland doesn’t have the numbers and depth of the some of the other programs in the county. But the Wildcats make up for a lack of quantity with quite a bit of quality.
Freshman budding star Nathan Higgins put together a stellar showing Saturday. He edged out Howard in a thrilling 50-free race, edging the Colonel by 0.2 seconds. Higgins also emerged with a win in the 100 free, beating out Howard by 1.54 seconds.
“He is a natural,” Woodland coach Melanie Parson said of Higgins. “He swims with Cobias, and he’s just a natural swimmer. He can swim just about any stroke. Out of the water, he’s a good runner, a good athlete all the way around.”
The Woodland girls also scored a victory in the 200-free relay. The combination of Brooke Cooper, Lyrica Miron, Lanee Haley and Bethany Svendsen rolled to a 10-second win.
Parson is confident her team will pick up a few state-qualifying times between Higgins and the girls 200 free relay in the coming weeks.
“Overall, I think we did great,” Parson said of Saturday’s showing. “We went in knowing that we didn’t have the swimmers to swim, and we went in for our kids to try to improve on their times and try to make it to state. … They did great; they were awesome. I love them. They’re cutting time, and we’re talking like four or five seconds off their time. Very impressed with them.”
Overall, the meet wasn’t without its hitches. Few sporting events involving multiple county programs don’t involve at least some level of controversy.
Even still, there’s a level of appreciation and admiration for those who help make the meet what it is: a showcase for the swimming talent in Bartow County.
“It’s quite an undertaking,” Fairbanks said. “Without those coaches and volunteers helping, it would not be such a great meet. Every year, we find out the Bartow County teams do have some championship-performance-type teams and we do have some excellent swimmers that are in the county. … They all compete hard against each other, that’s what the county meet is all about. But they basically love each other and cheer for each other the whole time.”