First Flight swimming runs away with NCC title

Currituck boys, Pasquotank girls take second

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Pasquotank's Jesse Dennis swims in the girls' 100 butterfly at the Northeastern Coastal Conference swimming championships, Friday, January 18, 2019 at Albemarle Family YMCA in Elizabeth City.

_MG_9972Gabriel Daneker 100m Freestyle 1st place.JPG
_MG_0149 Ray Hayden Fighting for 1st Breaststroke.JPG
_MG_0186Wyatt Johnson 400 Freestyle Relay.JPG
_MG_9895Gabriel Hanke 100m Butterfly 3rd Place.JPG

By David Gough
Sports Writer

Sunday, January 20, 2019

First Flight, Northeastern, Pasquotank and Currituck boys and girls swimming teams all met at the Albemarle Family YMCA on Friday evening for Northeastern Coastal Conference championships.

It was First Flight that swept the competition.

On the boys’ side, the Nighthawks finished with 118 points. Currituck finished in second with 94, Northeastern finished with 41 and Pasquotank took fourth with 30 points.

For girls, First Flight finished with 130 points. Pasquotank took second with 75 points, Currituck finished in third with 45 points and Northeastern finished with 34.

It wasn’t a shock to Northeastern and Pasquotank coach Wendy Kobiela or Currituck coach Susan Buzzard that both the boys and girls from First Flight took first place.

“I always do the math in advance and I know whether we (Currituck boys) stand a chance or not,” Buzzard said. “I knew it was a longshot for my boys this year, but we’ve got a ton of freshmen. So I think we’ve got a very bright future at Currituck.”

The Knights finished comfortably in second place Friday. They were helped by junior Gabe Daneker’s performance in the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle.

He took first place in both events, finishing with a time of 27.20 seconds in the 50 and 1:04.90 in the 100.

Daneker received the honor of the NCC Male Swimmer of the Year after the meet was over. He hasn’t lost a 50 or 100 freestyle race at the 2A level yet this season and is currently the only Currituck swimmer guaranteed a spot at regionals.

“He’s got a lot of raw talent,” Buzzard said. “But he’s worked exceptionally hard. I was thrilled to see him get that award. Very rarely I would say a junior deserves that, but he’s undefeated in the 2A conference this year.”

Daneker also was the first to dive into the pool in Currituck’s biggest win of the meet.

After Daneker provided separation at the beginning of the 200 freestyle relay, Evan Scully, Caleb Noerr and Hayden Ray kept the Knights in front as they edged First Flight by two seconds with a time of 2:00.81.

“That was a big surprise. I was really excited about that,” Buzzard said.

Senior Laiten Gibson, who typically is one of the four in that race, was involved in a second-place finish in the 200 medley relay and a third-place finish in the 400 freestyle relay.

For Currituck girls, Buzzard noted she was impressed with freshman Erynn Hall. One of several young swimmers for the Knights this year, Hall contributed to the girls’ score by placing fifth in the 200 individual medley.

“Our girls historically have not done as well as the boys have, not placed as high,” Buzzard said. “But I got a great group of young girls. So I’m excited to keep working with them and continue to develop this program.”

Ahead of Currituck was the Pasquotank girls in second place.

Kobiela said that she was pleased with how they performed and that they were able to accomplish what she had hoped for this year.

“I knew coming into the season that they had a really good chance at coming in second,” she said. “First Flight is pretty hard to beat. A lot of their kids swim year round. None of my kids do. So with our depth, I knew we had a good shot at taking second for the girls.”

Sophia Clarkson had the only win of the day for Pasquotank girls with a time of 31.13 in the 50 freestyle.

A team of Tami Brock, Vy Bui, Jesse Dennis and Clarkson placed second in the 200 medley relay finishing at 2:32.40 for the Panthers.

Dennis, Clarkson, Aalysah McClease and Alex Quintero also took second in the 200 freestyle relay with a time of 2:18.63.

Bui took second in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:39.71, while Dennis finished second in the 100 butterfly at 1:18.53.

Dennis is headed to regionals to compete in the butterfly.

Another one of Kobiela’s swimmers that is headed to regionals is Julianna Connor of Northeastern. Connor won the 100 backstroke by 10 seconds with a time of 1:12.33.

On the boys’ side for Northeastern, Wyatt Johnson was the standout for Kobiela.

He placed second in the 50 freestyle at 29.08 and was the starter for a third-place finish in the 200 medley relay, second-place finish in the 400 freestyle relay and the third to go in the third-place finish in the 200 freestyle relay.

“Never swam in his life (before this year),” Kobiela said. “First day of practice, couldn’t even put his face in the water. Now he has the fastest time on our team now and took second place in the 50 free. Did an amazing job. Just a natural swimmer.”