by Paul Nielsen
MATTHEWS — The Butler High School boys’ and girls’ swimming teams are doing more with less.
Butler’s overall numbers are down on both the boys’ and girls’ teams but the Bulldogs have already qualified 24 athletes with consideration times for the regional swim meet next month. The Bulldogs will have one more chance to up the number of qualifiers next week at the conference swim meet.
The Southwestern 4A Conference Swim Meet was scheduled for Jan. 19 but has been moved to Jan. 26 at noon at the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center in Uptown Charlotte. The regional swim meet will also be at MCAC on Feb. 2.
Butler swim coach Amanda von Thron credits a dedicated senior class — eight girls and six boys — for part of the Bulldogs’ success so far this season. The addition of freshman Reagan Youngblood has also helped the girls’ team. Youngblood recently smashed the school record in the 200 IM by three seconds.
The winter weather last week wrecked havoc with the Bulldogs’ practice schedule and forced the conference tournament to be moved. But von Thron said a solid week of practice this week will get the team back on track. Schools are not allowed to practice or participate in events when school is cancelled due to inclement weather.
“If we had the meet (on Jan. 19) after being out of school the previous two days, it would have been a big deal,” von Thron said. “We will get a whole week of practice in, so, hopefully, they will be in pretty good shape. We usually qualify a few more at the
conference meet, but we will see.
“We have some phenomenal swimmers this year. Our numbers are a bit down, but half of our team is seniors. A lot of them have never qualified before but they have put in an awesome effort.”
Senior Payton Graham is one of the boys’ top swimmers and he has posted solid times in the 1,500 free and the 200 IM. Graham also swims the anchor leg on the Bulldogs’ relay teams. Graham qualified for the state swim meet as a sophomore and junior, and von Thron said the senior is well positioned to qualify for the state meet for a third time.
Chase Schoolcraft is also having a good year in the pool, especially in the 50 free. Nick Rose has posted solid times in the 100 fly.
“Chase has dumped a ton of time in the 50 freestyle,” von Thron said. “Overall, we have a good group.”
Youngblood recently set the school record in the 200 IM with a time of 2:20.85. Youngblood also swims on the Bulldogs’ relay teams.
“Each meet she has shown up and given 100 percent,” von Thron said. “She has given it everything that she has. Our girls haven’t been to state in the relays in some time but she has come in and has helped us in the relays.”
Eliza Gunson has set times for consideration for the regional meet in the 50 free and 200 free.
“She already has the school record in the 50 free and the 200 free,” von Thron said. “She went to state last year in the 50 free, and she is hoping to do that again.”