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SHS swimmers hitting their stride

    With just a few weeks left in the season, Statesboro High School’s swim team are entering the home stretch of their 2015-2016 campaign.
    According to head coach Meghan Simonin, the Blue Devils are right where they need to be at this point in the season.
    Despite a rather youthful team, featuring a mixture of 23 freshman and sophomores and just six seniors, Simonin said her seniors have handled the pressure well.
    “We’re still a pretty new team this year. I have a lot of brand new swimmers and they’ve really come a long way. Some of my seniors that are exiting are really getting close to the stroke that they want and their times,” said Simonin during a Monday afternoon practice. “We’re getting there. We have two more (meets) to get a state time in. It’s sad for them and sad for me, but they are close. They’re doing really well.”
    Friday night, the Blue Devils hosted their fifth annual Statesboro High School Invitational at the Georgia Southern Campus Recreation and Intramurals center, featuring 15 schools and close to 250 swimmers.
    The girls team placed fifth while the boys placed sixth.
    “It was just a good experience for our swimmers. Not everyone gets to swim in a college pool, so it’s always a cool event,” Simonin, who is in her second year as head coach at SHS, said. “It’s usually a fast meet, so it’s good for them to come out and experience new, faster competition and they did well.”
    Since the start of the season, the Blue Devils swim team worked hard to lower their times. In the first meet on Nov. 15, the boys and girls placed fifth. The girls highest finish this year was in their second meet, Dec. 18, when the girls squad finished second overall.
    Simonin said her team’s success this year is due to the senior leadership she has on the team. Senior captain Margaret Hammond scored 81 points so far this season—second best on the team—behind junior Mariah Arnett (82 points).
    Hammond, mainly swimming in the 200-free and 500-free this year, said it’s stressful being one of the team’s leaders but also said the experience is very rewarding.
    “It actually helped me grow and become a better person. Being able to lead my team is pretty cool,” Hammond said.
    During the Blue Devils’ home meet Friday, Hammond said she and fellow captain Micah Kartchner had to step up and help lead.
    “We had at least 300 people there and coach was busy so myself and the other captain were left to kind of take over the team. It was stressful but we got through it,” Hammond said, laughing. “After we started getting into it, it was a lot better.”
    As for senior captain Kartchner, he’s having a strong season thus far as well. He has scored 40 points this season behind teammate Nicholas Harvey (48 points).
    Kartchner said he thinks he’s on the cusp of qualifying for state and wants to have a strong finish to the year.
    “I want to make sate this year and I’m still two seconds off. Hopefully, by the end of the season, I’ll be able to make it. It’s about my mindset. Somedays you feel pretty fast and you do well and somedays you just don’t feel it. I have to stay calm and focus on me,” Kartchner said. “I’m definitely going to miss the swim team. I think we have some strong bonds here.”
    Seniors like Katchner and Hammond will have some bittersweet memories ahead as the Blue Devils prepare for their senior swim meet this Friday.
    Coach Simonin said she learned how to have patience with her young squad this season and thinks the hard work her swimmers are putting in is starting to pay off.
    “I had to take a few steps back and go over the basics and make sure we were solid. We’re not always going to be top of the game at the beginning of the season,” Simonin said. “The second year has been much more successful than my first year. We come, we swim and we have a good time.”