Following its second consecutive top-10 finish in the Smoky Mountain Invitational, the Maryville/Alcoa Flying Dolphins have their sights set on a league title.
Powered by big weekends from Katrina, Rachel and Lauren Eccles, Sam Tingle, Seth Jinks and Taiga Ikeguchi, the Dolphins raced to seventh at the 37th annual meet at Springbrook Pool. Next up is the Greater Knoxville Area Interclub Swimming Association City Championships, July 30 through Aug. 1, at the University of Tennessee’s Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center.
The Dolphins currently sit atop GKAISA’s League 2 standings in a tie with the Gulf Park Blue Sharks with three meet victories each. The Sharks have a pair of meets remaining before the city championships, the Dolphins one.
Should Gulf Park falter in either and the Dolphins swim past Robindale Woods on Monday, the city meet will decide the title.
Village Green proved the class of the field at the invitational, edging Knoxville Racquet Club, 1397-1119, in a close-run finish. Gulfwood followed in third, with Gulf Park and Crestwood Hills rounding out the top five. The Green Meadow Swim Team finished 15th.
First-year Dolphin coach Michelle Brown said she was pleased with the team’s performances on Saturday and Sunday. The Dolphins were missing a few key swimmers to family vacations and injury or last year’s fifth-place finish could easily have been matched or bettered, Brown said.
Green Meadow coach Stephen Langdon, whose club has targeted the city championships in a big way in recent years, said he likes the team’s progress as the big show in Knoxville looms.
“I thought the (invitational) went really well for us,” he said. “We were up from last year. I think all the kids chopped times.”
The invitational drew better than 1,600 swimmers to Springbrook. It takes an army of 500-plus volunteers to make it work. Brown said she would be remiss if she didn’t credit them all, most notably meet director David Lazar and wife, Beth.
“All I’d ever heard was horror stories,” Brown said. “I actually thought (the meet) went great. What it takes to put that on is unreal. He hasn’t gotten the recognition he deserves.”
Tingle and Rachel and Lauren Eccles all swam to first-place finishes for the Dolphins, with Tingle reaching the wall first in both the 13-14 boys 100-yard individual medley and 50 breaststroke. He would add a second in the 100 freestyle.
Lauren Eccles was first in the 8-under girls 100IM and 25 butterfly. Rachel Eccles was first to the wall in 9-10 100IM.
Jinks added a second in 8-under 100IM, with Lauren Eccles finishing second in the 25 backstroke.
Bryan Landers claimed a pair of first-place finishes for Green Meadow in 15-18 boys 50 butterfly and 50 free. He would finish second in the 50 backstroke. Drew Crowder would finish second in the 9-10 25 butterfly. Later this month in Knoxville they’ll each be tested in a big way, Langdon said.
“The city meet is always the big dance,” he said. “I have no idea how it’s going to turn out.”