Crowe leads Elizabethton swimmers in Kingsport

By Jeff Birchfield

STAR Staff

   KINGSPORT -- Charlie Crowe's win in the boys' 200 meter intermediate medley highlighted the Elizabethton High School swim team's official season opener on Tuesday night.
   The Cyclones placed third in a three-way meet along with Dobyns-Bennett and Sullivan Central at the D-B Dome Swimming Pool.
   Crowe, the senior leader of the Cyclone squad, took first-place honors in the aforementioned race, posting a winning time of 2:47.79. For Crowe, who usually competes in shorter events, the 200 IM was a different challenge.
   "I should have done better in it, but I need a lot more training to get where I want to be," said Crowe. "I'm working on my technique and my endurance for the sprints. I need to go out where I can finish (a race) as strong as I start."
   Added EHS swim coach Jonell Johnson about Crowe's win: "It wasn't a real pretty race, but Charlie got the job done. He was real tired after the 200. They caught him early on, but he turned it on the last part of that event, typical Charlie style."
   Crowe is one of only four boys swimming for EHS this early season along with younger brother Eric, plus Evan Lindauer and Blake Dugger off last year's team.
   Dugger was another bright spot for the Cyclones, placing second in the 100 meter butterfly and fourth in the 100 meter backstroke. "I was quite impressed with Blake Dugger," said Johnson. "He's turned out to be quite the butterfly swimmer. Evan is a little faster this season also. I believe everyone that has returned has dropped times since last year."
   The girls also sported a new look now featuring a team comprised of all freshmen and sophomores. With the low number of boy swimmers and the relatively new girls team, it came as no surprised that Elizabethton finished behind both host D-B and Central in the overall standings.
   After having unparalleled success the past two seasons, Coach Johnson expressed disappointment at this season's low swimmer turnout.
   "The only returning girls are Lindsay Norris and Whitney Nelson," Johnson commented. "Whitney was out with a shoulder injury last year, but fortunately she is turning out to be one of our leaders.
   "This year's boys' team is tiny. They're all good swimmers, so I guess I can look at the positive side of it all being quality instead of quantity. I've talked to other coaches and they've all had the same problem of dropping in numbers lately. It's not just us. The numbers (of those participating) has gone down all over the conference."
   Audra Walker and Nelson had the best individual finishes among the young Lady Cyclones with fifth place finishes in the 100 meter freestyle and 100 meter backstroke, respectively. Walker with a time of 1:28.10 came to the finish just ahead of fellow Cyclone Sarah Key, while Nelson was followed to the finish by teammate Norris in the backstroke.
   Walker, Key and Nelson combined with Alissa Walker in the 400 meter freestyle relay to register an exciting second place finish. At the end, they edged out Central's relay team by a mere .27 of a second.
   "The girls are all underclassmen, but they were impressive in that race," said Johnson. "They beat the time of last year's group that swam the 400 freestyle made up of all juniors and seniors. They beat that time by 18 seconds. Even though, they are a younger team, they can be a faster team."
   Other results saw the relay team of Norris, Allissa Walker, Key and Ariel Rockett finish fifth in the girls 200 medley relay and Key post a sixth place finish in the 100 breaststroke.
   Back to the boys' side, Lindauer scored points for the Cyclones with fourth place finishes in the 100 and 200 meter freestyle events, while Eric Crowe scored with his fourth in the boys' 100 meter backstroke.
   But, it is Charlie Crowe, who is the top story of the young season for the Cyclones, already swimming a time fast enough to qualify for the state swim meet in February.
   "Getting that out of the way takes a lot of stress away," Crowe remarked. "When you qualify real early, you don't have to worry about it for the rest of the season."
   The Cyclone swimmers return to action this Saturday with the Relay Carnival at Virginia High School. They open at home next Tuesday night playing host to the same Sullivan Central team they faced on this night.