Warriors falter, but maintain Big East swimming dominance

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ROCKY MOUNT — Hunt High junior Ethan Maddrey strolled by once the Warriors competed in the 200-yard freestyle relay at Wednesday’s 3-A Big East Conference swim meet in the Harrison Family YMCA pool.

“Well,” Maddrey began. “We finally lost.” 

Before that race, Maddrey had been a part of 16 consecutive victories, relay and individual, during the 2018-19 season — a string that has Hunt as the odds-on favorite to repeat once next Wednesday’s official conference championship takes place.

Indeed, it was a noticeable blip on the Big East swimming radar, but not nearly enough to change the season’s order of events. Hunt, as it has done at each boys meet in each of the last two seasons, captured the team victory by outpointing runner-up Rocky Mount 164-126. Hunt will take aim at its third straight Big East title on the boys side next Wednesday as Maddrey remained unbeaten in individual events, winning the 200 freestyle in 1:54.42 and the 100 backstroke in 59.78. 

The 200 freestyle relay of Maddrey, Nick Tew, Zac Taylor and Kenny Alzate was tripped up by Rocky Mount for the first time all year, as the Gryphons posted a 1:41.67 to edge Hunt at the wall. The Warriors posted a 1:42.18.

“We just had a couple of swimmers that were a little off,” Hunt head coach Christel Dermer said. “That happens. I’m proud of what they did anyway. They’ve been working really hard this year and doing an awesome job.”

On the girls’ side, Fike will likely see its string of four consecutive Big East championships come to an end next week. The Lady Demons were outpointed by Rocky Mount 166-94 in finishing second among the league’s teams. Former conference foe Nash Central, which still swims with Big East teams during the regular season but is now in the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference, was second overall with 119 points.

Fike picked up a first-place finish from Kaiya Patton in the 100 backstroke as she touched the wall in 1:15.82.

“She’s capable of much more, honestly,” second-year Fike head coach Sherry Strickland said of Patton. “She has no competition. She has nobody pushing her right now.”

The Demons, who finished third in the boys standings with 85 points, got a second-place showing from Ryo Nakaya in the 50 freestyle. Nash Central (83), Northern Nash (54), Southern Nash (44), Tarboro (36) and SouthWest Edgecombe rounded out the scoring.

Hunt was fourth in the final girls standings with 83 points as Southern Nash (56), Northern Nash (48), SouthWest Edgecombe (18), Beddingfield (15) and Tarboro (10) followed. The 2-A Eastern Plains Conference Lady Bruins got a second-place swim from Annie Greene in the 200 individual medley and a third-place result in the 100 backstroke.

Big East member Franklinton did not attend.

Alex Terry had the lone first-place showing for Southern Nash, winning the 100 freestyle in 56.96. Madalyn Bardowell had the top Ladybirds finish, placing second in the 500 freestyle.

Hunt tacked on additional first-place swims from Sanjeev Francis in the 100 butterfly (58.58), Ben Tong in the 500 freestyle (6:30.90) and the closing 400 relay quartet of Maddrey, Francis, Taylor and Tew, who finished first in 3:45.06.

But finishing second in the 200 freestyle relay wasn’t something Hunt appreciated.

“Our boys have a lot of depth, and that helps us out a lot,” Dermer said. “I think it did put some fire under a few of them, because they didn’t like that at all. I don’t know if it would be a wake-up call, but it did put a fire under them —  because they don’t like losing.”