EHS swimmers come up short against J.J. Kelly

By Jeff Birchfield
STAR Staff

   J.J. Kelly High School edged Elizabethton 125-120 in the combined score Monday night at the EHS pool in a dual swim-meet between two teams hampered by the flu bug.
   The Indians had to forfeit each of the boys' relay events having only three healthy swimmers on the roster, while the Elizabethton girls team was without the services of twins Audra and Alissa Walker, their top two point scorers on the season.
   "If we would have had the twins, it would have helped us tremendously," said EHS head coach Jonell Johnson. "They had one more girl than we did total. With the Walker girls out, it hurt. As a team, we've been sick and out of school just as they had. Practice-wise, we were about even.
   "I'm hoping we can get everyone well and have a couple of good meets before we go to the conference meet. We have two more meets this week."
   Despite the depleted rosters, both teams put forth good showings highlighted by a terrific race in the girls' 100 freestyle. In that event, Kelly's Lindsey Cantrell finished first in a virtual three-way dead heat with Lady Cyclones, Sarah Key and Whitney Nelson.
   "Whitney had that race up to the last 25 (meters)," said Johnson. "Sarah Key and the girl from J.J. Kelly was right behind her. She has had the flu and just puttered out the last half of the last 25. It was a very close and exciting race.
   "I had two finish judges watching it with me and they sort of looked like you're not going to be happy with this."
   Key actually was credited being the fastest of the event with a time of 1:15.09, while Cantrell was timed at 1:15.93 with Nelson less than a second behind at 1:16.06.
   "That was a great race, the best race of the whole evening," said J.J. Kelly head coach Jake Reeves. "For a while it was a four-way race until one of our swimmers faded. That was a fun race to watch.
   "It is Lindsey's first year in high school. She swam in the summer league over in Wise County, where we get most of our swimmers. It's the farm team for our program. She got behind and came back to win. I'm real proud of her. She's got a beautiful stroke."
   About the close finish Key said, "I was trying to beat her, but it didn't work. My goggles leaked, but I should have done better. I tried my best. It was adreniline-rushing and a lot of fun. Knowing how bad their coach wanted her to win, I just tried my best."
   As the third participant in the nailbiting finish, Nelson added, "I realized how close it was. I was watching under the water. I've been sick since last week, so I didn't get to practice any. I still wasn't breathing well and took too many breaths at the end. I lost a couple of seconds and that was what killed me.
   "For a long time I was swimming and no one was beside me. The last half of the pool they started catching me and I could see them out of the corner of my eye coming and it was like, 'Oh, no.' I've had the flu and have felt a little weak, but I'm doing good enough to go back to school tomorrow."
   The excitement of that race was matched by Eric Crowe in the boys' 50 freestyle. Crowe swam a time of 29.87 seconds to record his first ever individual win.
   "It surprised me," admitted Crowe. "It was the first race I have ever won individually. It was a real honor to win it. At first I didn't know I had won until I saw my time. After that, it was pretty good.
   "I've swam in this event every meet. I swam in the breast(stroke), but I gave it up. The freestyle is my favorite. My time has come down from a 35 (second) to a 29. Ms. Johnson's practices have really helped. It's the third straight time in a meet I have swam under 30 seconds."
   Overall the EHS boys outscored their opponents 80-28 with Crowe also taking second place in the boys 100 freestyle, where he finished behind teammate Evan Lindauer.
   Lindauer came only one stroke shy of grabbing a second win in the boys 100 backstroke against J.J. Kelly's Chris Spurlock.
   Blake Dugger recorded wins in the 100 butterfly speeding to a 1:06.47 and in the 100 breaststroke, where his time was 1:27.08 and Charlie Crowe eased to the 500 freestyle win with a 6:16.22.
   The four also combined for wins in the boys 200 medley relay and the 200 freestyle relay.
   Amongst the leaders on the girls side for EHS included Key, who added a third place finish in the 100 backstroke to her earlier performance and Lindsey Norris, who finished second in the 500 freestyle.
   Ariel Rockett also scored in the individual column with a third place in the 50 freestyle and fourth place in the 100 backstroke. Savannah Davis also put points on the board with fourth place in both the girls 100 breaststroke and 50 freestyle.
   For J.J. Kelly's Lady Indians, they had a quartet of swimmers besides Cantrell to score first place finishes in individual events. Jade Bolling won the 50 freestyle, Allison Miller took the 100 butterfly, Heather Collins triumphed in the 500 freestyle, while Alyssa Collins was tops in two events, the 100 backstroke and the 200 medley.
   "It was a good meet," said Reeves. "We face as good competition down here as we do at the Virginia State Meet. It's a good place to swim."
   The Cyclone swim team returns to action today at Virginia High, when they take part in a six-team meet that was rescheduled due to inclement weather.