When the waters finally calmed, the team from Centre showcased their best finish in their short history.
In 24 of 32 events, the Otters set personal best times. Six swimmers picked up individual points, while nine of our 16 swimmers at state pointed as both relays finished in the top 16.
“Four years ago Katie Hill, Carly Duryea, Dru Rainer and Reid Davis qualified for the state meet in Scottsboro. At that time Coach (Betsy) Rainer and I were so happy that we had swimmers just make it that far,” Otter Coach Kurt Duryea said. “This year, we sent sixteen swimmers to participate in the 32 separate events. Six of our team members earned points.”
To pick up a team point, an individual or a relay has to place in the top 16 at the state level.
Duryea added, “This, by far, is our best team effort. In 24 of our 32 events, our kids set personal best times. That is a testimony to the kids’ work ethic Coach Rainer and Coach (Jennifer) McCord are teaching.”
Leading the way for the Otters was Leighton Rainer. She was ninth in the 9/10 girls 50-breaststroke (43.76) and 11th in the 50-backstroke (40.70).
She also swam the breaststroke on the 13th place 200-medley relay team.
Rainer was excited about both relay teams.
“In the medley, Savannah (Moore) had a great flip-turn and a strong swim to start us off,” Rainer said. “I swam second, and then Ainsley (Davis) was right there with all the other girls in the fly. Of course, Alexis (Smith) brought us home.
“Then in the freestyle relay, it was really crazy. We were in second place in our heat when I was on the block. I knew I had to catch the other girl. At the flip-turn I was pretty close and coming down the lane I could see her. I just kept pushing and then touched the pad.”
Rainer’s finish bumped the Otters from an 18th seed to 12th place overall finish as they shaved nearly 11 seconds off their personal best time.
In addition to the relays, Ainsley Davis placed 15th in the 9/10 50-butterfly (43.58).
Otter newcomer Mark Sawyer earned a 13th spot in the 8-and-under 25-breaststroke. In the 9/10 boys competition, Nathan Whitt earned points in two events. Whitt, a medalist at last year’s state games in the 8-and-under, moved up to the longer distances in 2012. He was 15th in the 50-backstroke and posted a 37.10 in the 50-freestyle to place him at 14th. Carly Duryea’s 36.32 was good for 16th in the 15-18 girls 50-fly, as was Reece Winstead’s 30.81 in the 8-and-under 25-back.
In the Otters final event, Bailey Graves, Dru Rainer, Nicholas Sawyer, and Reid Davis touched the wall in 2:23.20. The 11-12 boys squad time was good for 14th overall.
On Saturday, Graves (breaststroke), Rainer (backstroke), Sawyer (freestyle) and Davis (butterfly) earned 12th in the 200-medley relay.
Other state qualifiers turning in personal best times at the ARPA state finals included Virginia Rainer, Hayes Winstead, Erin McCord, and Madeline Winstead.
Cullman will serve as the host for the 2013 ARPA state swim meet. Cherokee County and the City of Centre have a direct connection to the host of the 2013 games.
John E. Hunt, the Director of Parks and Recreation in Cullman, grew up in the Tates Chapel area of Cherokee County. He spent time with Duryea and Centre Parks Director Charles Glazner sharing his memories about riding his bike to the city pool and reminiscing about the friends he grew up with in the area.
Cullman also served as the host site of the ARPA state swim meet in 2011. Duryea noted “the community did a remarkable job pulling together to have the meet in 2011 after suffering some of the worst tornado damage in the state.”
Cullman had several tornadoes recorded as hitting their area on April 27, 2011 with the largest being an EF-4.
“It really was a credit to their leadership and volunteers to rebound and open their hearts to everyone else in the state. They were terrific hosts.”
As for next year in Cullman, Coach Betsy Rainer likes the Otters chances.
“We’ve got a good foundation with this team. Our team experience is funneling down and I’m excited about our younger swimmers who will be moving into key spots next year. Our older swimmers work well in encouraging the younger ones and are great role models.”