That’s what Josh Ruger, Woodland’s swimming coach, expects to see at the upcoming event, which kicks off at noon at Adairsville with the preliminary round and closes with the finals, which should begin around 5-5:30 p.m. Both events are open to the public.
“This is going to be one of those years you don’t want to miss,” Ruger said. “Looking at the heat sheet, I can tell the teams are very close, a lot closer than we’ve had in the past. I think the lead will change hands quite often, particularly near the end, and it will be a very exciting event.”
Ruger should know. He’s in his seventh year at Woodland and also is coordinating the county swimming competition again this year.
It’s also a given that the event could see a lot of records fall in the 22 events — 11 girls and 11 boys events.
Woodland will be seeking its third county swim title in a row on Saturday against representatives from Adairsville, Cartersville and Cass.
But winning the county championship is not as important to Woodland and its competitors as trimming their times and qualifying for state.
Ruger said this year each competing school will be fielding some competitive athletes.
“Cartersville is led by Elise Hart, who’s already a state qualifier in the 50 free style (with a time of 26.42); 100 back stroke (1:04.07); 500 free style (5:36.23); and is a member of the school’s 200 medley team (2:05.06),” he said. “Elise is sort of their ‘do-it-all’ girl.”
Other leaders on the girls team are Maddie Braid and Erin Williams. Griffin Braid is a top performer on the boys team.
At Adairsville, Tiger Austin Hancock qualified in the 50 free style with a time of 59.26. The Tigers 200 medley relay team qualified for state with a time of 1:51.53. Lady Tiger Tyler Herron qualified in the 50 free style with a time of 26.16 and in the 100 breast stroke, 1:15.48.
At Cass, Anthony Broadway and Maile Liu pace their respective teams’ efforts.
Woodland has two teams that have qualified for state, including the 200 free relay, with a time of 1:37.94, and the 400 free relay, 3:45.05.
Woodland’s girls are led by Alison Warren, Emily Hardy, Tamantha Patterson and Amanda Welbon and the boys by Zach Naelitz, Hunter St. Clair, Bronson Castro, Jack Bucher, Austin Stone and Zach Putz.
Ruger said swimming is continuing to become more competitive in Bartow County, continuing a trend that started several years ago.
“I’ve been here seven years now, and the participation has gone up exponentially,” the coach said.
The excellence in the water has spilled over into the classroom, so to speak.
Woodland currently has five former swimmers who are using their swimming prowess to help them get an education while competing at the next level. Cass has one alumnus who has done likewise.
Ruger noted the swimming competition is open to the public. The charge is $5 for adults and $3 for children. Fans who attend the preliminaries and keep their ticket stubs will get in free for the finals by showing their ticket stubs.
The coach added he believes crowds tend to help the performance of the aquatic athletes.
“This is going to be a really fun meet for the kids,” he said. “I’d love to have them compete before a packed crowd. The louder it is, the faster the times are.”