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Deerfield swim teams finish strong at state under new coaching staff

Deerfield swim coaches Morgan Garcia, left, and Lisa Bartlett, right, were all smiles with senior Rena Divine after Saturday’s second-place finish for the girls at state. (Photo courtesy of Doug Divine/Special to The Herald)

Deerfield swim coaches Morgan Garcia, left, and Lisa Bartlett, right, were all smiles with senior Rena Divine after Saturday’s second-place finish for the girls at state. (Photo courtesy of Doug Divine/Special to The Herald)

ALBANY — Fresh off a second-place girls finish and fifth-place boys finish at the GISA state meet over the weekend, co-coach Lisa Bartlett says the future has never been brighter for Deerfield swimming.

“The kids are swimming year-round now and working harder than ever,” said Bartlett, a former collegiate star and Olympic trial qualifier who coaches the program with Thomasville resident and Cairo alum Morgan Garcia — a former swimmer for FSU. “In fact, many of them got right back in the pool after state. They didn’t even take a day off.”

The future of the program was a bit uncertain last year when longtime coach Lorraine Withers — whose son, Taylor, was The Herald’s four-time Player of the Year for boys swimming and capped off his senior season with multiple state titles — moved to North Carolina upon Taylor’s graduation. But in stepped Bartlett, who knew Lorraine from swimming circles around Albany, and Garcia, who was DWS’ assistant coach when Lorraine left.

Now, the duo is ready to take the program to even greater heights. And last Saturday at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center in Atlanta was one heck of a coaching debut at state.

The varsity girls 200 freestyle relay team (Rena Divine, Maggie DuVall, Haley Daughtry and Reagan Allen) placed second and also set a new school record with a time of 1:51.73.

Senior Hannah Bowe swam lights out in the 200 and 500 free events, finishing sixth and fifth, respectively. Senior Camille Fox also swam the 500 free, placing sixth overall.

Daughtry had three personal-best times in the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle events, placing fifth, seventh and fifth place, respectively.

For the boys, sophomore Ashton Wahbeh had three personal-best times in the 50 free, placing eighth, and the 200 and 500 freestyle, placing fourth in both these events. And freshman Nick Myers was another swimmer with three personal-best times in the 50 free, 200IM and 100 breast.

But the biggest story to come out of the meet may have been that of eighth-grader Perin Hancock, who captured Deerfield’s only state title — albeit as a member of the JV squad — in the 50 breaststroke.

Deerfield will lose just four seniors, all girls, this offseason — Divine, Fox, Bowe and Emily DuVall — and Garcia said swimmers like Hancock are the key to Deerfield’s future.

“Lorraine and I have been building the program for the last seven years, and this year we had a lot to replace with kids like Taylor and Beau (Sinyard) leaving. But the nice thing about this season, (looking back), is that we accomplished what we did with a 100 percent, total team effort. We never had one dominant swimmer all year,” Garcia said. “And then to see someone like Perin win state as an eighth-grader — that’s exciting. That’s what we’re trying to build. And with much of our boys team being young, and with swimmers like Perin and other JV (members) coming up, I like the future. I think we have a real shot at winning state next season.”