The Augusta Prep swim team is trying to do what no other boys team in the Georgia Independent School Association history has ever done.
With four consecutive state swimming titles under their belt, the Cavaliers will go for a record-breaking fifth Saturday at Georgia Tech.
Mount de Sales Academy won four titles from 1998-2002 under one coach; the Cavaliers will go for its fifth with three separate leaders at the helm. Matt Marisco guided the Cavaliers to titles in 2009 and 2010, Mary Ellen Virgo coached in 2011 and Adam Diehl is in his second year at the school after winning it all in 2012.
Diehl thinks that consistency, even with turnover at the top, comes from coaches knowing the league and competition well and having the right mix of swimmers.
“We’ve kind of gotten a lucky break in having an overlap of having a deep team, having a lot of kids come to high school practice, but then we also have a couple of stellar year-round swimmers that score a lot of points for us,” said Diehl, who coached Westminster in the 2009-2010 season.
The team has eight swimmers: seniors Eric Brown, Jacob Burr, and Nick Parker; juniors Nolan Brandon Austin Chung, Mikey Foster and Nick Friedman; and sophomore John Earwood.
Chung and Earwood are the squad’s year-round swimmers and usually take the top finishes, which is fine with their teammates.
“I want to contribute as much as I can to the team,” said Brown. “My event is usually the 50, the 100 and the 200 (freestyle). I’m definitely not the best swimmer out there, I probably won’t finish first. My goal is if I can get fourth, fifth or sixth, that would displace other teams.”
Brown’s attitude fits perfectly with how Diehl has kept the team on top.
“For us to win, we need the sixth, seventh and eighth places because they score the top eight,” Diehl said. “All or most of our guys will score points at state because that’s how I coach. I coach them at the events where those places are competitive for them to get.”
With timed finals, each swimmer can swim in three individual events and compete in both the 200 medley and 200 freestyle relays. In GISA, schools can score points with two teams in each of the relays.
Brandon is swimming competitively for the first time since middle school after getting tendonitis in his knees last year playing basketball. He knows that every swimmer plays an important part.
“Well yeah, because we only have eight guys, so that’s two relays, and we need everybody to contribute and that does put a lot of pressure on you to do well,” he said.
The Cavaliers got a measuring stick of where they were Jan. 12.
“We won the Atlanta Girls Invitational two weeks ago,” Diehl said. “That one is the most representative of the state meet because I would say 95 percent of the teams were at that meet.”
Brown, whose brother Steven swam on the first championship team in 2009, wants to keep the tradition alive and is up for the challenge.
“We have a big target on our back saying we’re repeaters here and everybody wants to come after us,” Brown said. “I love that. It makes practice easier when you have a goal like that.”