FAIRMONT — With conference, regional and state meets on the horizon, Marion County swim teams came together to crown a county champion inside the confines of the Fairmont State Falcon Center.
In the first step on the road to state, the Fairmont Senior Polar Bears captured first place in both the boys and girls competitions. East Fairmont took second for the girls, with North Marion in third. The Huskies flipped things in the boys competition, with North coming in second and East in third.
Before the meet, a ceremony recognizing each of the three teams' seniors added an extra layer of importance to the night.
For both Fairmont Senior and East Fairmont, this year's senior class is the first group for each schools' coaches to have coached for four years.
East Fairmont graduates Gavin Townsend, Matthias Freeman, John Bonner, Andre Franks, Joshua McPherson, Mahaylah Ramage, Syndi Taylor, Eleanor Capuder and Zoe Boyles.
"We have a lot leaving, and this is my first four-year group that I've had," East Fairmont coach Katie Sharpe said. "They mean a lot to both Emily [Gallager] and I as coaches, watching them from freshman year all the way up until senior year. They're a big part of our team."
Fairmont Senior graduates Alexis Ramsey, Nevaeh Premo, Stella Episcopo, Ashyln Bennington and Bradey McMullen.
"It was really special," Fairmont Senior head coach Rob Clevenger said of the senior recognition. "They started my first year coaching, so I've been with them all four years. To see them grow in the sport and succeed, it's just been great to see them and their dedication to the sport."
"When they came in, they were kind of ahead of the pack as freshmen because they'd swam club and swam for so many years prior to that. They were there, but yet they still had to grow, and they came into their own."
North Marion graduates Lanie Richards, Gage Willis, Alexia Whitmore, MiKaylie Shearer and Emily Gabor.
"We had five seniors, two of them were some of my eighth graders from when I first started teaching," North Marion coach Tony Lopez said. "They've helped set the tone the whole time. One senior in particular, Lanie Richards, has worked her butt off this season. Gage Willis is the same way, same with Alyssa Whitmore.
"Two of our seniors, Hailey and Emily were brand new to the sport. They've picked it up really fast and I've seen a lot of improvement from them."
In evaluating events where multiple schools took part, Fairmont Senior enjoyed a successful outing at the competition.
The Polar Bears' team of Giana Armistead, River Bolyard, Audrey Drennen and Stella Episcopo won the girls 200 yard medley relay, and the team of Ashlyn Bennington, Armistead, Caroline Hamilton and Alexis Ramsey won the girls 200 yard freestyle relay.
The team of Carter Southern, Bradey McMullen, Tyler Veltri and Grant Broadhurst won the boys 200 yard freestyle relay, and the team of Southern, Braden Paul, Broadhurst and Veltri won the 200 yard medley relay.
Ashlyn Bennington took first place in both the girls 200 yard freestyle and 100 yard breaststroke. Fellow senior Alexis Ramsey won the girls 200 yard individual medley.
The Bears' Carter Southern won two individual events as well as being part of two first-place relays. Southern won the boys 50 yard freestyle and the boys 100 yard backstroke.
Caroline Hamilton won the girls 50 yard freestyle, Audrey Drennen won the girls 100 yard butterfly, and Taylor Burkel won the girls 100 yard freestyle.
On the boys side of things, Grant Broadhurst won the boys 100 yard freestyle while Braden Paul won the 100 yard breaststroke.
"I think we're close as a team, we're right there on the edge," Clevenger said, when looking ahead to his team's future. "We're buckling down now and figuring out some things and I think we'll do well to wrap up the season."
East Fairmont's Breanna Waldron won the girls 500 yard freestyle to highlight the Bees' day.
"We've grown a lot," Sharpe said. "We've had a lot of near-record breaks. They're our own records, but we're very close to breaking them again so the kids are pretty motivated by that. A lot of individuals are PR'ing and getting their own personal records."
For North Marion, Taylor Hess took home first place in the girls 100 yard breaststroke.
"They have all grown so much," Lopez said. "We've had so much cut time, so much growth. Each and every one of them have gotten faster and I couldn't be any more proud of them."
Each of East Fairmont, Fairmont Senior and North Marion will compete next week at The Bridge in Bridgeport for the Big X Conference Meet.
Fairmont Senior- 228
East Fairmont- 89
North Marion- 56
Fairmont Senior- 108
North Marion- 58
East Fairmont- 47