Sure, the Hilltoppers graduated one of their strongest classes in recent years. However, when you have won 12 straight combined Region 1 championships, the goal is continued success.
Science Hill does return two swimmers: Lexi Gay in the 200 in the individual medley and Haley Altman in the 100 breaststroke, who scored points as individuals at last season’s TISCA State Championship meet.
Three other girls, Julia Davenport, Morgan Misenar and Isabella Tomita, combined with Gay to score in the 400 freestyle relay. A pair of boys, Kodee Eads and Jake McMackin, also teamed with the now graduated Lucas Mills and Owen Devine to go 3:09:08, good enough for third-place in the 400 freestyle relay.
“We have a younger, less experienced team than we’ve had the last few years,” Science Hill coach Chris Coraggio said. “That’s a challenge for me as a coach and a challenge for the young men and women on the team. But, we always want to strive at the highest level. Our objective is to get as many kids qualified for the state meet as soon as possible and then start training for our major competition at the end of the season. There is a lot of pride involved to continue the tradition we have at the regional championship and to hand that to the next group coming up.”
The coach calls Eads the team’s fastest and most versatile swimming. McMakin, who also was part of the 200 freestyle relay at state last season, is the team’s specialist in the sprints.
While there is always a major focus towards the end, there are other goals throughout the season to be achieved. The Hilltoppers met one of those goals Monday night with their 10th straight win over Dobyns-Bennett in the teams’ dual meet in Kingsport.
The Science Hill boys won 110-67 and the girls came out with a 118-62 victory. Easily winning the combined score, Science Hill retained possession of the Brass Urn trophy.
Reece Bradford (400 freestyle), Luke Barnes (100 backstroke), James Bernedo (100 butterfly) and Eads (200 I.M.), along with the 200 and 400 freestyle relay teams, all scored wins for the boys.
The girls also swept relay races, while individual winners were Julia Davenport (50 and 100 freestyle races), Morgan Misenar (200 and 400 freestyle races) and Haley Altman (100 breaststroke, 200 I.M.).
“We had a couple of kids sick and not participating so the challenge was going out there and beating Dobyns-Bennett at their place,” Coraggio said. “We did that. There is another challenge coming up this weekend. There is always the challenge of continuing a tradition of excellence.”
Some of the other girls not already mentioned who are expected to contribute this season heavily this season include Megan Barnes in the middle distance events, Molly Bowman in the 100 backstroke and Megan Gay in the 100 butterfly.
On the boys’ side, Bradford was the first signee for Lees-McRae’s new program, while Jacob Clemons is counted on heavily in the distance and middle distance events. Nour Shams is one expected to excel in the butterfly.
The diving squads includes Nicholas Dorr, Nick VanEaton and William Peterson, who’s also one of the top pole vaulters during track season, for the boys. Girls divers include senior Hannah Logan and a pair of freshmen, Lily Hamilton and Raven Scott.
Fresh off Monday’s big win, Science Hill will return to the pool this weekend with the Southwest Virginia High School Invitational in Christiansburg, Va.