Decade of excellence: Swim Devils sweep region titles again

Jan. 20—TIFTON — When Tift County Swim Devils and coaches jumped into the pool at the Baldwin Drive Aquatic Center Thursday night, they celebrated a perfect 10. A full decade of excellence.

So what if the temperature was 50 degrees outside at 6:30 p.m.? They had swept the region swim titles yet again 90 minutes before in Warner Robins and it was time to celebrate. On top of that, the 10th straight region title for the Devils was a nail-biter, the necessary points coming by way of their finish in the 400 freestyle relay.

"Unbelievable," said head coach Ivey Vickers. "It came down to the last race," Vickers admitted the boys championship could gone either way.

Veterans won the 400 relay, earning 18 points.

Karson Ponder, Brayden Rowland, Chase Walker and Ethan Stalnaker reached the finish line in 3:43, six seconds for second and 14 points. Then came Abram Miller, Kason Flowers, Jay Ross and Brock Alexion in 3rd in 4:12 for 12 big points. Northside finished 4th (10 points) and Veterans' second squad placed 5th (8 points).

The final tally showed the Tift boys with 153 points to Veterans' 150.

Scoring was different for this region championship Vickers said, with a team's top two placers in each event counting towards their total. Anyone else from that school finishing in the normal scoring slots were awarded no points. Anyone that did count under region finals scoring rules got the normal points attached to their finishing position.

While it was the 10th consecutive double title, the Lady Devils notched their 11th crown in a row. There was no question about theirs, Tift scoring 207 points to second place Houston County's 123.

Anna Lupo, Ava Wilson, Brianna Domagala and Kendall Sasser won the 200 medley relay in 1:57, an event that made for an especially good start for Tift as teammates earned 2nd place. Even better, Brynna Burke won the next girls race, the 200 freestyle (in 2:06), with Raylee Walker placing 2nd.

Tift's Lady Devils were also 1-2 in the 100 Anna Lupo finishing three seconds ahead of Domagala. Burke, the same pair in the same order in the 100 backstroke, also a three-second differential. Raylee Walker were 1-2 in the 500 freestyle, Burke's time 5:33.

Wilson won the 200 individual medley in 2:25. Sasser was tops in the 100 freestyle in 58.06 seconds, less than one second ahead of second place. Domagala, Burke, Raylee Walker and Wilson won the 200 freestyle relay in 1:48. Sasser, Burke, Raylee Walker and Anna Lupo won the 400 frelay in 3:57.

Stalnaker was the only Blue Devil to win an event, an especially close 100-yard breaststroke. Stalnaker finished in 1:09.13, and Sean Hoover of Lee County was second in 1:09.84.

"This is unbelievable," Vickers said. "The work the kids put in, and Mac (Kristin McElroy), Teresa (Walker) and (Michael) Hancock," she said, the last three being assistant coaches.

Nearly a whole generation of Tift County swimmers knows nothing else besides region championships. The last time the Lady Devils did not win was 2013. The seniors would have been in elementary school.

"It's been awesome," Vickers said of their run.

Though only the top two finishers counted towards points, other Tift swimmers placing in the top 10:

Boys 200 medley relay: Ponder, Stalnaker, Walker and Landon Parrish (2nd); Rocky Faw, Trey Dorminey, Elijah Hellman and Aiden Thrasher (3rd); Ethan VanOrman, Kason Flowers, Eli Pate and Mason Grist (4th) and Aaron Patel, Wyatt Keith, Jack Medina and Caleb May (7th).

Girls 200 medley relay: Leighellyn Bengston, Raegin Walker, Abby Lupo and Rachel Spurlin (2nd); Emmalyn Lukas, Lauren Maag, Haley Hooks and Jude Hawsey (6th) and Laney Braswell, Grace Walker, Savannah White and Morgan Brey (9th).

Boys 200 freestyle: Parrish (4th), Hellman (5th), Brock Alexion (6th), Medina (7th) and Dillan White (10th).

Girls 200 freestyle: Raylee Walker (2nd), Sara Johns (7th), Lukas (9th) and Lola Reynolds (10th).

Boys 200 individual medley: Rowland (3rd), Thrasher (4th), Abram Miller (7th) and Flowers (8th).

Girls 200 individual medley: Bengston (4th), Maag (5th), Spurling (6th) and White (8th).

Boys 50 freestyle: Ponder (4th), Faw (6th), Grist (8th) and Pate (9th).

Girls 50 freestyle: Sasser (2nd), Lilly Bruce (4th), Haley Hooks (8th) and Jude Hawsey (9th).

Boys 100 butterfly: Walker (3rd), Rowland (7th), Hellman (7th), Pate (9th) and Medina (10th).

Girls 100 butterfly: Domagala (2nd), Abby Lupo (3rd) and Raegin Walker (8th).

Boys 100 freestyle: Ponder (2nd), Miller (6th), Parrish (7th), White (9th) and Grist (10th).

Girls 100 freestyle: Bengston (4th), Johns (6th), Laurie Barbee (7th) and White (10th).

Boys 500 freestyle: Stalnaker (4th), VanOrman (6th), Alexion (7th) and Dorminey (8th).

Girls 500 freestyle: Raylee Walker (2nd), Reynolds (6th) and Lukas (7th).

Boys 200 freestyle relay: Thrasher, Parrish, Rowland and Faw (3rd); Dorminey, Alexion, Hellman and Miller (4th); White, VanOrman, Pate and Grist (5th) and Jay Ross, Bill Nguyen, Jace Long and Brodie Law (10th).

Girls 200 freestyle relay: Johns, Barbee, Reynolds and Bruce (4th); Lukas, Maag, Hooks and Hawsey (6th); Grace Walker, White, Brey and Braswell (7th) and Elizabeth Jackson, Brooklyn Baird, Lordis Denny and Kensie Law (9th).

Boys 100 backstroke: Walker (2nd), Faw (5th), VanOrman (6th), Aaron Patel (8th) and Ross (9th).

Girls 100 backstroke: Domagala (2nd), Abby Lupo (3rd) and Bruce (9th).

Boys 100 breaststroke: Keith (5th), Flowers (6th) and Dorminey (7th).

Girls 100 breaststroke: Wilson (2nd), Raegin Walker (3rd), Maag (4th), Law (6th) and Spurlin (8th).

Boys 400 freestyle relay: May, Law, Medina and White (6th); Keith, Nguyen, Long and Aaron Patel (9th) and Maitrey Patel, Miguel Martinez, Hatcher Swanson and Rylan Pearman (10th).

Girls 400 freestyle relay: Abby Lupo, Raegin Walker, Bengston and Spurlin (3rd); Reynolds, Johns, Barbee and Bruce (5th) and Denny, Baird, Gabby Montalvo and Law (9th).