High School Sports

Hilton Head High girls swim away with state title

COLUMBIA -- Midway through the last event Saturday night -- the 400-yard freestyle relay -- the Hilton Head High girls team had opened a lead of four body lengths.

The race was over early -- much like the girls competition at the Class 3-A state swim meet at the Carolina Natatorium on the University of South Carolina campus.

Hilton Head High romped to its first title in five years with 457 points. Greenville finished second with 323.5. Bluffton finished 14th in the girls event.

In the boys competition, Fort Mill held off Academic Magnet, 356 to 355, to earn the title. Bluffton, behind two wins from Robbie Skinner, finished fourth.

"You never know if you are in good enough shape until you come into the event, but I was coming in very confident," said Skinner, who won the 100 free (48.62) and the 100 back (54.51). "But this was definitely the goal. I didn't want to come out of this meet finishing second again."

Skinner already owned two silver medals and knew what he wanted -- as did the Hilton Head girls.

"This was something we've talked about since the end of last season," coach Jack Maddan said of the Seahawks' first title since 2005. "This was goal No. 1. This morning in the hotel, the girls were talking about how the only thing that mattered was the team title."

To that end, the Seahawks potentially sacrificed some individual glory in order to accomplish the goal. Instead of spreading their top performers, they grouped them in a couple of events. Among the results were four finishers in the top five of the 200 freestyle. The payoff was a big lead after only four events.

"It was all about the team this year," sophomore Cassie Ley said. "If we did great in our individual events, that would be awesome, but if we didn't, we knew we would have more chances. Today was all about the team title."

The Seahawks didn't go home empty-handed as individuals. Ley won the 100 freestyle and finished third in the 200 IM. Josie Cuda won the 200 freestyle comfortably and finished third in the 100 butterfly.

"After seeing how we were seeded, we wanted to keep those points, and we did a good job of that," Cuda said. "Timewise, I'm not exactly happy with how I swam, but I helped the team win, and that was the whole point."

She'll be back next year, too. Hilton Head High loses only two seniors, and Maddan was already challenging his girls about the multiple-year window the Seahawks have to earn even more titles.