Vikes Collect League Swim Titles
It was a banner night Tuesday in Buies Creek for both the Union Pines boys’ and girls’ swim teams.
The Viking girls remained undefeated in 3-A competition this season by taking home the Cape Fear Valley Conference championship with a winning tally of 286 points at Campbell University’s Johnson Natatorium.
Western Harnett took second in the girls’ meet with a 243 total, while Southern Lee placed third at 136.
In the boys’ competition, Union Pines and Gray’s Creek tied for the top spot, with each scoring 228 points in the league championship meet. Southern Lee placed third with a total of 161.
“This is the second year the girls have been undefeated conference champions,” said Viking coach Carmen McLamb. “I think the primary reason would be we had a good solid group of swimmers last year, and fortunately for me, only one of them was a senior. We got back last year’s team and added a few freshmen to strengthen our scoring ability. The girls made up their minds early in the season they wanted to repeat last year’s performance.”
In addition to the team performances, Union Pines’ senior Janelle Imbriale was named the CFVC female athlete of the year, while McLamb won the CFVC award for female coach of the year. It was also senior night for the squad as Union Pines swimmers Imbriale, Logan West (captain), Courtney Pope, McKenzie Koppenhofer, Ryan McKenna, Maris Riley, Austin Beers, Michael Lindsey, Dylan Beal and David Byrd were recognized in a ceremony before the meet.
“My four senior girls are going to leave behind some big shoes to fill,” said McLamb.
“Logan has been a real leader this year. In swimming, your big points are in your relays. Logan swam all three relays and the 100 breaststroke. Early in the season we thought an injury would keep her from competing at all this season, but she was determined and fought her way back into the pool.”
West placed fourth in the 100-yard breaststroke and was a member of two first-place Union Pines’ relay teams, along with another second-place relay squad.
“As a captain this year, I have been focused quite a bit on the team instead of myself,” West said, “which is fine — I like to help people. This team is young and really has a lot of potential. As a group, these guys learn fast, so that is very good.
“To be the girls’ captain on a team that has not lost a meet at this pool in two years, with such a great group of people is very rewarding. I am very proud of us as a team for the way we have competed, and this is one night I will always remember, along with all the members of this team.”
McLamb said Imbriale has been a dominant force again in the freestyle sprints this season.
“I must say it was a very proud moment when they made the announcement that Janelle was our girls’ conference MVP,” said McLamb. “She has dominated the 50 free and 100 free for the last three years and has also been instrumental in the success of our 200 medley relay and our 200 free relay, so she is very deserving of the title.”
Imbriale finished the meet with first-place finishes in the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle, and was a member of the Vikings’ winning 200-yard medley team and 200-free relay teams.
“This was definitely a fun way to finish off my last league championship,” said Imbriale. “It is always a good feeling to win, and be an individual conference champion along with our team taking the title, especially since this is my senior night.”
Courtney Pope, who has been a Vike swimmer for four seasons, helped the Vikes win the 200 medley relay. She also placed second in the 200 free and the 100 breast.
“It feels great to win the conference meet again this year,” said Pope. “We worked hard all season and it has really paid off. We are a tight-knit group out here and love to root for each other. We even have times where we have to compete against each other, but even still, we always want nothing but the best for our teammates.”
Pope started her career as a freestyle and fly swimmer, but then McLamb’s top breaststroker, Shannon Trudeau, graduated last year.
“Courtney stepped right up for us,” McLamb said, “and did a great job filling that hole. Meanwhile, McKenzie is one of our first-year swimmers. She came out and it became obvious she had a natural talent for the backstroke, so she has been the leadoff leg of our 200 Medley B relay team all year. She was under a lot of pressure and she handled it well. I can’t believe how far she came in one season.”
Sophomores Erin Harding and Cassidy Fry have had stellar seasons for Union Pines, and each had solid meets, especially Fry.
Harding was part of the first-place Viking 200 medley and 200 free relay teams, along with claiming a third-place finish in the 200-yard individual medley.
Fry captured victories in the 100 fly and the 100 back in convincing fashion.
“Cassidy has had a great season, going undefeated in the 100 fly and the 100 backstroke,” said McLamb. “She makes the 100 fly look effortless. Most times, she finishes half a pool length ahead of everyone else. She is just a very talented young lady.”
Numbers Aid Boys’ Success
According to McLamb, the turnaround for the boys’ team actually started at the end of last season.
“I had eight boys on the team and they finished second in the conference. The returning swimmers were mostly freshmen and sophomores, and they realized with a few more guys on the team they could win. We made recruiting a top priority this year and it paid off for us.”
Union Pines won its last four CFVC league meets, after opening the season with a close second-place finish.
Adam Howard was the Vike boys’ sole first-place individual winner at Tuesday’s event, taking the top spot in the 100 back.
“I have six senior boys,” McLamb said, “and most of them are new. Ryan, Maris, Austin and Michael are all first-year swimmers. It’s been a pleasure to have them out this year and there is no doubt they added to our success. Austin Beers came out with basic skills in swimming and, in a few short months, he is one of the top freestyle sprinters in the conference. I think it has a lot to do with his natural athletic ability and the fact he is very competitive.”
Beers tallied a second-place finish in the 50 free and was a member of the Vikings second-place 200 medley relay team with Jacob Walker, Aran Stalls and Kyle Metcalf.
“The reason I came out for swimming started with me and my friends just wanting to try something different to keep in shape,” said Beers. “So we were like, ‘Why not, let’s just do it,’ and it has worked out pretty well for us. This is a really fun sport — you feel great after a race and you feel good after you win, which we have been doing a lot, so it always feels good when you can win all the time.”
Beal has been on the Viking team for two years, and Byrd is a four-year Vike swimmer.
“David has done great in the 200 freestyle this year,” said McLamb. “He also stepped in to our breaststroke spot on the 200 medley B relay and provided a strong leg.”
Byrd captured a third-place finish in the 200 free. Other Union Pines’ swimmers to earn top-three individual finishes at the meet include Jessica Crowell (third, 200 free), Metcalf (second, 200 individual medley; second 100 fly), Ashlyn Owens (third, 100 free), Walker (second, 100 free) and Stalls ( third 100 breast).
When McLamb spoke about winning the girls’ league coach of the year award she turned the attention to her swimmers.
“It’s an honor to be named CFVC girls’ coach of the year,” she said. “I was taught to always thank those who make you look good, so I’m going to have to thank my team for that.
“They are a pleasure to work with. When you are recognizing your seniors and announcing ‘will be attending Duke University, Virginia Military Institute, Air Force Academy …’ you know you’ve not only got a group of good swimmers, you’ve got a group of great people. I will miss them.”
Contact F.W. Manning II at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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