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Spoils for capturing the 3-A Big East Conference boys swimming championship for the third consecutive year for Hunt High included sharing the distinctions of swimmer of the year and coach of the year.
Warriors junior Ethan Maddrey and Rocky Mount’s Mac Lord were proclaimed boys swimmers of the year and the boys coach-of-the-year accolade was shared by Hunt’s Christel Dermer and Rocky Mount’s Melissa Scabo.
Honored in the girls division were Rocky Mount’s Katie Moss as swimmer of the year and Rocky Mount’s Shira Parrish as coach of the year.
The emergence of co-honorees in the boys division somewhat puzzled the water Warriors since they captured every regular-season meet and dominated the championship meet by winning 10 of the 11 events.
Runner-up Rocky Mount did not register a first-place finish. Lord managed a pair of runner-up showings and was usually outdistanced in the regular season by Hunt sophomore Sanjeev Francis.
“I feel like Ethan should have been the outright winner,” Dermer expressed. “He was definitely the swimmer of the year.”
Maddrey prevailed in the 50-yard freestyle and 100 butterfly, and was a member of the victorious 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle relays.
He went undefeated in both individual events and his only loss came in the 200 freestyle relay the final meet of the regular season. During his Hunt career, Maddrey’s only individual losses have been in the butterfly on a couple of occasions.
“It’s all right, I guess,” Maddrey responded to being co-swimmer of the year. “It sucks a little bit because you really don’t know how you stand. We won and that’s all that matters.”
If Maddrey was to share the accolade, he anticipated doing so with teammates — senior Shane Matrejek, Francis or Zac Taylor.
However, Dermer explained a coach can only nominate one swimmer from her or his team and the winner(s) are decided by vote of the head coaches.
Nonetheless, Maddrey established a precedent by becoming the first non-senior to be honored as Big East swimmer of the year.
“I was a little shocked,” he admitted.
Maddrey rated his junior season his strongest.
“I dropped so much time,” he explained. “Six seconds in the 200 freestyle, a second in the 100 butterfly and two seconds in the 100 freestyle.”
During Maddrey’s three seasons, the Warriors have not only reigned as Big East champions but have not lost a meet.
Dermer, assisted by her husband, Robert, has functioned as head coach for all three. Her first of four years as head coach was 2015-16, when the Warriors finished second.
“We did really well and I am so proud,” Dermer assessed the latest championship meet. “We almost swept all the events. They all deserved to swim fast and they did. We had a lot of personal bests.”
The Lady Warriors finished third. They were sparked by senior Emily Day, who notched a first place, a runner-up effort and anchored the dramatic upset victory by the 400 freestyle relay.
“Emily did so well,” Dermer commented.
Dermer downplayed the coach-of-the-year honor as “not that big of a deal.”
“I do it for the kids and how much they deserve for all their hard work. The reward is winning,” she said.
She credited her husband’s impact, adding: “I tried to guide them and help them understand they should always focus on the positive. They worked hard.”
The Warriors now turn their focus to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A East Regional, scheduled for Saturday at Triangle Aquatic Center in Cary.
All three relay teams for the Warriors look to qualify for the state 3-A championship meet, set for Friday, Feb. 8, at Triangle Aquatic Center. Based on seed times issued by the NCHSAA, Hunt ranks fifth in the 200 medley relay at 1:50.27, fifth in the 200 freestyle relay at 1:38.03 and fifth in the 400 freestyle relay at 3:45.06. The top eight times in each event qualify for the state meet.
Maddrey ranks fourth in the 100 freestyle with a time of 51.21 seconds and is listed No. 7 in the 200 free at 1:52.41. Francis is fifth in the boys 100 backstroke at 59.45 and seventh in the 100 butterfly at 58.58 seconds.
Fike’s Ryo Nakaya is listed eighth in the boys 50 freestyle at 24.20 seconds. He is also 10th in the 100 butterfly.
Other Big East swimmers who rank just outside the top eight regional seeds but have a shot at moving on to the state meet are Hunt’s Emily Day, who is 10th in the girls 50 and 100 freestyles; Hunt’s Dante Gaetano, ninth in the boys 100 breaststroke; Hunt’s Ben Tong, 11th in the boys 200 individual medley; Hunt’s Zac Taylor, 11th in the boys 50 free; Hunt’s Shane Matrejek, 12th in the boys 500 free; Southern Nash’s Madalyn Bardowell, 12th in the girls 500 free, and the Hunt girls 400 freestyle relay, which is listed ninth.