Staff Photo: John Bohn Wesleyan assistant coach Meridith Marquell, left and head coach Kevin Kadziz, right, cheer on their boys 400 yard relay team during the Georgia Class AAAA-A swim finals held Saturday at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center. Wesleyan won the race and with it, the boy's Class A_AAAA team championship.
ATLANTA -- In any close swimming race, the finishing kick is decisive.
Such was the case for Wesleyan in Saturday's Class A-AAAA boys state meet at Georgia Tech's Aquatic Center.
With the team embroiled in a tight race for the team championship, the Wolves needed a strong finishing kick from their 400-yard freestyle relay team in the final event of the day.
And the foursome of Timothy Marsh, Drew Middleton, Nick Salyers and Anthony McMurry came through, erasing a nearly two-second deficit midway through the race to blow past John's Creek for the victory, thus lifting Wesleyan to its second straight state title.
Unlike the Wolves' first title a year ago, which was won by 96.5 points, they needed the final come-from-behind victory in the 400 free relay to become the only team to break the 200-point mark at 202.5 points and edge runner-up Chattahoochee (195) and Johns Creek (188) for the team trophy.
"This was an exceptionally low-scoring and close meet," first-year Wesleyan coach Kevin Kadzis said. "That may have benefitted us in the long run.
"We had the points all mapped out. We knew what we needed to do. We knew that it would be incredibly close, and we knew that it would come down to the last (event). To come from behind by over a body length was incredible."
The comeback in the 400 free relay actually began with Salyers' third leg.
Down by nearly two seconds, the senior made up nearly all of that team and came just .22 of a second behind Johns Creek's Henry Parker before giving way to fellow senior Anthony McMurry.
"I was just confident in the rest of my relay (teammates)," Salyers said. "I knew Mac is the fastest guy in the water when it comes to this meet. So, all I had to do is give (him) a chance."
And McMurry took full advantage of that chance, shooting past Johns Creek's Aaron Durrence by the 300-yard mark and cruising home to finish off his team's time of 3:08.54 --1.14 seconds ahead of the Gladiators -- to secure the event and the team title.
That wasn't the first boost Wesleyan got from McMurry on the day.
Though the Florida State-bound senior was edged at the wall by North Paulding's David Sweeney by just .15 of a second to finish second in the 200 freestyle at 1:40.21, he rebounded to hold off a strong challenge from North Hall's Paul Powers to defend last year's title in the 100 freestyle in a time of 45.51 seconds.
"I knew it was important, mainly because of the (team) spirit," McMurry said of the team implications of his race in the 100. "I knew (the team race) was going to be close. I definitely feel like the crowd was cheering me on a little more (because of it). I just feed off that energy. I love it when the crowd's with me."
McMurry also teamed with Marsh, Middleton and Erik Gossett to take second in the 200 freestyle relay, while Salyers also was a big contributor on the day for the Wolves by taking fourth in the 200 individual medley, finishing in the front end of a third-fourth combo with Ben Spears in the 100 backstroke and teaming with Spears, Gossett and Middleton to place fifth in the 200 medley relay.
Wesleyan's girls weren't quite able to match the boys' team showing, but the Wolves did crack the top 10 by placing ninth with 89 points.
Buoyed by Lauren Hall's record-setting performance in the diving competition with 537.65 points, Wesleyan also got a fifth-place finish by Rachel Koch in the 50 free, plus a seventh-place finish by the 200 free relay team of Caroline White, Lillie Baker, Ansley Maughon and Camille Roy.
Buford was the only other Gwinnett team in the team standings, with the Wolves finishing 25th with 18 points.