Cyclones' Dugger qualifies for state at NET meet

By Jeff Birchfield
STAR Staff

   KINGSPORT -- Going into Saturday's Northeast Tennessee Swimming Championships at Sullivan South High School, Elizabethton swimmer Blake Dugger wanted to qualify for one event in the state swimming meet, by the end of the day he had qualified for two.
   Dugger's exploits were the highlights of the day for the Elizabethton High School swimteam. He finally qualified for the 100 butterfly event after coming oh, so close the last few meets. But, he also shocked everyone shaving 11 seconds off his personal best time making the state meet in the 200 freestyle.
   "I mean I just wanted to get it and I did," said Dugger about his qualification. "I dropped 11 seconds in the 200. I just swam my hardest and made it.
   "I was just trying to keep up with the guy next to me. You have to pace yourself. I've been a half second off all year in the 100 fly. I decided that I wasn't going to end the year and not make it."
   Dugger wasn't the only Cyclone qualifying for the state. Evan Lindauer, who had already been assured a spot at Nashville, made good in efforts in the 500 freestyle.
   "Blake qualified for the 200 and I don't know where that came from," said EHS head coach Jonell Johnson. "I'm real proud of him for that and in the 100 fly. Evan also dropped about 13 seconds to qualify for the 500."
   Lindauer and Dugger each scored fourth places in the 100 fly and 500, respectively. That team high mark was matched by Charlie Crowe, who just barely missed a top three finish in the 50 freestyle. Crowe backed it up with a sixth place finish in the 100 freestyle.
   The boys showed early on they were to be competitive in the opening 400 medley relay event. Lindauer got the Cyclones out to the early lead with a quick 100 backstroke before the boys dropped down to third. Crowe made a lightning fast charge on the last 100 freestyle leg to bring the team back to second in the heat.
   Overall in the meet, the Cyclones finished 8th out of 11 teams. Kingsport's Dobyns-Bennett won the boys and overall titles, while Science Hill was victorious amongst the girls teams. Host school Sullivan South was third in the overall standings with the combined Morristown schools effort in fourth and Sullivan Central rounding out the top five.
   In the girls standings, Elizabethton was bolstered by the efforts of the Walker twins, Audra and Allissa along with Sarah Key and Whitney Bishop. The four combined to score points in all the relay events.
   While not scoring, freshman Savannah Davis continued a constant improvement in each event she competed in. In the 100 backstroke, she improved her time a full eight seconds over her previous best.
   "My time did come down a little bit, two or three seconds, each meet," said Davis. "I've never been on a swim team before. I had lots of fun meeting new people.
   "Even though I'm not qualified for the state, I had a good time. I'm happy with what I did. At the first of the season, I didn't even know how to dive."
   Eric Crowe and Ariel Rockett also competed in the regional meet, with the young swimmers giving Johnson hope for the future.
   "The girls' times didn't drop off as much as the boys, but everyone either swam better or equaled their best time," said Johnson. "Looking back over records, I have four girls that are swimming quite a bit faster than the fastest swimmer from last year's team. Being freshmen and sophomores, I feel they can qualify for the state if they stick with it."