LUMBERTON — The Lumberton girls swim team may be young, but if anything, it’s a trait the team has learned to embrace.
This weekend its youth will be on full display as the Pirates send three relay teams to the NCHSAA 4A Central Regional meet in Greensboro.
Of the six girls the team is sending to the meet, there is only one senior. The remaining five are freshmen and sophomores.
“I have always had a ‘we should get all that we can’ mentality, but I am ecstatic with what we have accomplished based on our youth,” said first-year Lumberton coach Lonnie Cox.
The Pirate girls are the only swimmers in the county to advance to the regional meet and qualified their 200-yard freestyle, 200 medley and 400 freestyle teams with hopes of contending for a spot in the state meet.
The duo of senior Taylor Jackson and freshman Alexis Ard will be racing in all three events. They’re joined in the 200 free by sophomores Summer Martin and Kendall Blaine, the medley by Blaine and sophomore Kiley Prevatte, and the 400 free by Martin and freshman Allison Bedell.
Jackson has been a stalwart for the team as the top individual swimmer for the last three years. Cox said she embraced the leadership role her senior year.
“She led all of practices and truly pushed our younger girls to strive harder,” Cox said. “She leads by example in that she swims every meet like it is her last. She has a rare ability in that she makes everyone around her better.”
Though Jackson had hoped to make it to regionals in the 50 free in her final year, she missed the cut by half a second.
Ard stepped into a key role as a freshman, challenging the times put up by Jackson and her teammates.
“Alexis is going to be special,” Cox said. “I think that she will eventually qualify individually in the 100 freestyle, and could potentially qualify in the 50 free. Her time as a freshman ranged between a 29.0 and a 30.0. As she grows and continues to polish her skills, I think that she will trim a few seconds off of her time.”
Cox said the team has improved as the season’s continued and credited part of it to the addition of former Pirate standout Maegan Hamilton as an assistant coach. Hamilton, a 2011 graduate, qualified for regionals during each of her four years on the team and was a role model for the Pirates’ current upperclassmen.
“Coach Hamilton deserves a lot of the credit for helping these girls trim their times to make it in to regionals,” Cox said. “Her experience and knowledge helped our girls progress over the course of the season.”
Despite the youth, the Pirates are no strangers to regional competition. Every swimmer except for Ard and Bedell has been to a regional meet before, which Cox said should help the team in regards to the atmosphere.
Though the Pirates’ entry times aren’t among the top in the region, Cox said his team has had a knack for swimming well against top competition. Worst case, he hopes the girls take away motivation for next year.
“Experience is key when it comes to these meets and I want our younger girls to experience the atmosphere,” Cox said. “It gives them something to work for every season.”