EDMOND — It took a week longer than expected, but the Timberwolves are regional champions.
Norman North swam away with both the boys and girls’ regional title in the finals of Saturday’s meet. The Timberwolves won 13 of the 22 events and both teams finished more than 30 points ahead of second-place finisher Edmond North. Both teams expect to contend for a state title next week, as the boys look to defend the crown they earned a year ago.
“We had a great day yesterday, and almost everyone made the finals today,” coach Kent Nicholson said at Saturday’s meet, the second leg of the two-day regional competition implemented for the first time this season. “We had a lot of really big drops in times today.”
North was led by Justin Wu and Maddie Sarantakos, who combined to win all eight events they competed in, but that was just the beginning of a strong day for both Norman schools.
Norman High finished fourth on the boys’ side and fifth for the girls, swimming well and sending a healthy amount of participants to next week’s state meet at the newly opened Edmond Aquatic Center.
While the stars of the program shined on Saturday, they were far from the only success stories. Nicholson complimented several swimmers, including NHS’ Jackson Deaton and North’s Sarah Houck and freshman Claire Liu, who turned in their best meets of the year.
“The Justin Wu’s and Maddie Sarantakos’ of the world are going to be great, but we had a really great day from some kids who are going to score us points at state,” Nicholson said. “We have some of our other kids stepping up in the standings. We had a lot of good swims and a big meet from everyone.”
Given the new and somewhat controversial regional system in place, it was a good thing Norman did. In years past, swimmers would have all season to hit a target time that would qualify them for the state meet, but that changed this year with the implementation of the regional system used in other OSSAA sports.
There was an east and west regional with the top eight swimmers from each meet qualifying for state. The next eight qualifiers for the meet come from the next eight fastest times from either regional.
It’s a system that both rewards and punishes athletes, because any mistakes made in the regional final are magnified and could cost a swimmer their shot at state. At least one swimmer was disqualified from Saturday’s final due to a false start, something infinitely more punishing under the new rules.
Whatever the rules change, things didn’t change much for the Tigers and Timberwolves. Nicholson said they qualified about the same number of kids in years past, and the T-Wolves still walked away with the regional title.
If Wu has his way, that will be just a stepping stone.
“Winning this meet wins a lot,” he said. “It gives us more confidence to know we can win state next week.”
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