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Lee girls enjoy a sweet 16th

Photo by Scott Chancey

Photo by Scott Chancey

AMERICUS -- They call it the GHSA Region 1-AAAA swim meet. But don't kid yourself. Everybody knows it's nothing more than a party for the Lee County girls swimming team.

And nobody throws a pool party like the kids from Lee County. They own this meet. They own the pool, the water, the timer and the final score. And if anybody dries off with a towel, the odds are Lee County's girls own that, too.

Get the idea? No one in Southwest Georgia -- no one -- dominates any high school sport the way Lee County's girls dominate swimming. So it was no surprise that Lee County won again, beating second place Bainbridge by 76 points (124-48) at the Georgia Southwestern pool. It was Lee County's 16th consecutive title.

"That's 16 in a row. It's crazy," said sophomore Casey Schoenberger, who qualified for the state meet in the 50 freestyle, the 100 freestyle and as a member of two of the three relay teams. The streak started the year Schoenberger was born.

Schoenberger isn't just part of the dynasty. She's part of a legacy. Her two older sisters, Lauren and Megan, were both swimmers at Lee County. In fact, swimming is why all three girls went to school in Leesburg.

"When we came here, people were accusing Lee County of recruiting us from Germany, because of our name,'' said Schoenberger with a grin as long as the Danube.

Well, they were from Florida and they started swimming at clubs at the age of 4.

"The reason we're at Lee County is because of the swimming,'' said Casey's step-father, Howard Davis. Casey's mother, Heidi, looked on the Internet and made a few calls, and Lee County was the place for her daughters.

Terri Kerrey, who landed in Georgia after Hurricane Katrina destroyed her home on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, was just looking for a good academic school for her daughters. She knew her oldest daughter loved swimming, so it was a perfect fit for Haley Kerrey, a junior who won the 50 freestyle, the 100 breastroke and helped all three relay teams not only win the region title but qualify for state. She has also qualified for state in the 100 freestyle.

"When we evacuated from Katrina I told my girls to take anything they wanted,'' Terri said. "My youngest daughter took all electronic stuff. The only things Haley took was a shirt signed by Janet Evans and her swimming trophies. She loves swimming, so Lee County has been perfect for her.''

Both Kerrey girls (Morgan is a sophomore) swim for Lee County. It has been a family affair for years, starting in 1993 when Connie Grebel started the dynasty. Karen Hancock, who coached for the past three years, has two daughters on this team -- Shelby and Haley, who are both headed to state.

"They were already good when I got here,'' first-year coach Kelly Futch said. "I really didn't know how good they were, but after the first meet I realized how unbelievably good they are."

Lee County's girls haven't lost a regular-season dual or tournament in two years -- a new streak that could gain some momentum -- just like the region streak at Lee County, where they have given a whole new meaning to the term Sweet 16.

"It's 16 in a row. Are you serious? Now, 16, that's huge,'' Haley Kerrey said. "It's great to keep the legacy going, and it better last. My sister has to keep it going, or I will hurt her.''

No one touched the Lee County girls Wednesday. Kerrey and Schoenberger went 1-2 in the 50 freestyle, and Kali Eigenberg and Haley Hancock went 1-2 in the 200 individual medley. Madison Holcomb won the 500 freestyle to qualify for state and was third in the 100 butterfly. Emily Butts was second in the 200 freestyle and also qualified as a relay swimmer along with Shelby Hancock. That entire group is headed for the state meet in Atlanta.

Bainbridge just beat Americus-Sumter (48-45) for second place in the girls meet. Hardaway (37), Thomas County Central (33), Harris County (11) and Upson-Lee (11) completed the field.

The boys meet was as close as it gets with Upson-Lee beating Americus-Sumter, 73-72. Bainbridge (56) was third and Lee County (54) was fourth. Hardaway (25), Thomas County Central (16) and Harris County (12) rounded out the field.

"We'll be back,'' said Americus-Sumter coach Darrell Sabb Jr., who has only two seniors. "My team is young. I'm not disappointed at all. It's sweet, but it would have been even sweeter if we had won.''

Americus-Sumter's 400 freestyle relay (Collin Steele, Evan Countryman, Oscar Chavira and Allen Garrett) took the title and finished second in the 200 freestyle relay. Michael Petron was second in the 100 breaststroke and Garrett finished third in the 200 freestyle.

Bainbridge's boys were led by Lucas NeSmith, who won the 200 individual medley and was second in the 500 freestyle, and Zach McConnell, who won the 100 breaststroke. Alex Hughes finished second in the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle. The Lady Bearcats were led by Sunnie Chason, who won the 100 backstroke and free events.

Lee County's boys were led by Devon Larson's first place in the 100 backstroke and Derek Gobin's second place in the 100 butterfly, and the 200 freestyle relay team -- Larson, Gobin, Trey Hardison and Will Moncrief) finished third and qualified for state.