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After his Elizabethtown Lady Panthers won last year’s 3rd Region Championship in Versailles, Elizabethtown swim coach Mavi Sampaio has a boom-or-bust mentality as the region meet moves to Russell County this year. Preliminaries begin this afternoon, while the finals are Saturday.
“We’re going to win the girls,” Sampaio said before Wednesday’s practice at T.K. Stone.
Are there any doubts the Lady Panthers, who have several No. 1 and No. 2 seeds according to the region’s pre-meet psych sheet, should defend?
“No,” Sampaio said matter of factly.
The girls’ trophy isn’t the only one he covets.
“We’re going to try to win the combined. Last year we lost it by 10 points,” Sampaio lamented. “And this year, it’s going to be tight again. I didn’t know last year was going to be that tight, but this year, I know it’s going to be tight.”
The Lady Panthers are favored to win gold in five events: 200-yard medley relay (freshman Marianna Godfrey, sophomore Manuela Sampaio, freshman Mariana Sampaio, junior Hannah Godfrey, 1:57.81 seed time), 50 freestyle (freshman Madeline Rich, 25.50), 500 free (sophomore Mary-Catherine Pepper, 5:14.69), 200 free relay (Rich, Mariana Sampaio, senior Natalie Miller, Pepper,1:44.43) and 400 free relay (Rich, Manuela Sampaio, Pepper, Hannah Godfrey, 3:48.42).
Elizabethtown is seeded second in four individual events in the 200 free (Pepper), 200 individual medley (Manuela Sampaio), 100 butterfly (Mariana Sampaio) and 100 breast (Manuela Sampaio).
The Lady Panthers should also have a handful more of championship or consolation finalists, which help them rack up even more points.
“We’re definitely gonna win and I don’t think there’s any pressure,” said seventh-grader Savannah Kingery, who owns a pair of top-eight seeds in the 200 free and 500 free. “We’ve worked really hard and we have a good coach, so I think we’re definitely set up to win.”
An older teammate of Kingery has that same type of confidence.
“We really want to (win) and I think the girls will take first because we did last year,” said Miller, who owns a pair of top-seven seeds in the 50 free and 100 free. “And hopefully the boys will come in second or at least third so we can take the overall.”
While the girls’ title seems to lack drama, the boys’ race has plenty of it. With the graduation of several members off last year’s region runner-up team, the Panthers will need some personal-record swims to pull off a similar performance.
It’s critical the Panthers pick up points where they can.
“We’re feeling the adrenaline and getting ready to go to big swim meets can get you nervous,” said eighth-grader Phillip Hayes, who is seeded in the top 10 in all four of his events as he is 10th in the 100 fly and fifth in the 200 and is a member of the Panthers’ fourth-seeded 400 free relay and third-seeded 200 medley relay. “It makes you feel, ‘Hey, I have to do good.’”
Other Panthers who should feel good about their chances are junior Chase Simmons, sophomore Thomas Deaton and freshman Issac Lewis. Simmons is seeded second in both the 200 IM and 100 breast, while Deaton is seeded second in the 50 free and 100 free and Lewis is seeded third in the 500 free.
Meade County senior T.J. Osborne is seeded first in the 50 free (22.72) and third in the 100 free, while junior Aaron Bauer is second in the 100 back and freshman Cody Jobe is third in the 100 back. Osborne, Jobe, Bauer and senior Nicholas Thoma are seeded first in the 200 free relay.
Central Hardin sophomore Grayson Riggs is seeded third in the 100 fly, Fort Knox sophomore Monica Smith is seeded third in the 100 fly, John Hardin eighth-grader James Bellware is seeded fifth in the 500 free and North Hardin’s boys’ 200 free relay of freshman Dalton Mitchell, eighth-grader Cody Mitchell, junior Derek Sparkling and freshman Roderick Harris is seeded eighth.
Nathaniel Bryan can be reached at (270) 505-1758 or firstname.lastname@example.org.