Rebekah Littauer crouched on the starting block at the East Tennessee pool with her chin tucked to her neck and one leg back waiting on the start sound. “Beep,” and with that Littauer shattered the cool teal water.
She came up to take a breath and thrust her arms forward. She slammed into the touch pad in front of her seconds before the others in her heat. As she surfaced, she heard the cheering. Littauer had broken the school record for the 100- yard breaststroke.
Littauer, a sophomore, was not the only record breaker this season. Junior Jake Johnson not only won state last year in the 100-yard backstroke, he also broke the school record with a time of 51.83 seconds. Also at the state meet last year Johnson broke the school record for the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:44.71.
This season Johnson broke the school record for the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:04.21 at Asheville School.
Although Johnson missed the first few meets because of sickness, the members of the team were able to excel without him. Several members of the team earned regional qualifying times. In addition to Johnson and Littauer, seniors Levi Gibbs, Andrew Guffey, Taylor Johnson, Mackenzie Keel, Bailey Austin and Ari Sen, juniors Blake Wooten, George Tsakalos, Sophia Molina and Gavin Blake, sophomores Tim Kinsey and Samantha Gonski and freshmen Alex and Rachel Willey all earned consideration or automatic times to be considered for the regional meet. All of the men’s and women’s relay teams qualified for regionals.
“The season has been great so far. Everybody has been doing well,” Johnson said. “I’ve been sick, so I haven’t made all the meets, but the guys have done very well. I am proud of their work.”
At the regional meet at Huntersville Aquatic Center, the men’s 200- and 400-yard freestyle relay teams advanced to the state meet in Cary. Littauer and Johnson both qualified for state in their individual events.
“Our season has been good. We’ve honestly been killing it,” Taylor Johnson said. “My team is a great family. I wouldn’t want to swim with anyone else.”
The swim team competed in the conference swim meet at Waynesville Recreational Center. Both the men’s and women’s teams placed third in the meet.
“We are all very different people,” Littauer said. “It’s really special that we can all come together and form unique bonds on the team.”
At this season’s state meet at the Cary Aquatic Center, Johnson placed fifth in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:46.41 and third in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 51.88. The men’s 200- and 400-yard relay teams also qualified for the state meet in Cary. The 200-yard relay team of Jake Johnson, Blake, Guffey and Tsakalos placed 13th out of 16 teams. The 400-yard relay team of Jake Johnson, Taylor Johnson, Tsakalos and Guffey placed 18th out of 24 teams. West placed 17th overall in the meet out of 38 teams.
“This season has been really spectacular. Everyone has improved tremendously,” Sen said. “I am going to miss swimming with some of my favorite people.”
By Isabella Perron and Ari Sen