By PATRICK ENZOR
Item Sports Writer
The Sumter High School swim team is taking eight girls and one boy to the 4A state meet at the Rock Hill Aquatic Center Saturday beginning at 11:05 a.m.. Five girls qualified individually and three others will join in on a relay team while Doug Morte is the lone male to qualify, which he did in two races.
"I feel like we have a good chance," said SHS head coach Jennifer Ward. "They have been working really hard and I hope we can take a couple of seconds off their swims. With good swims, I think some might be able to get into the top 3.
"Since our team is so small, we just hope to go out and try to do our individual best times," she added. "It is an opportunity to go against some really good competition."
Alicia Hyatt is the highest-seeded Sumter swimmer as she qualified with the seventh best time in the state this year in the 500-yard freestyle. Her time of 5 minutes, 33.53 seconds is over 26 seconds behind the top seed, but is less than six seconds out of the top three.
Kia Kirkhart also qualified 30th for the 500 free with a 6:11.81 mark.
"Alicia Hyatt, she just dropped a good chunk of time," said Ward. "If she can drop another couple of seconds, she will be in contention to get a top three spot."
Hyatt, Alicia Anderson, Whitney Merchant and Ashley Kirkhart will form a relay team in the 200-yard medley and the 400-yard freestyle relay. The former qualified 12th with a time of 2:02.65 — 7.11 seconds behind top seed Dorman — and the latter qualified 11th at 3:58.69 — 12.61 seconds behind No.1 Mauldin.
Kia Kirkhart, Molly Duggan, Katie Speed and Cassie Prosser qualified ninth in the 200-yard freestyle relay. Their time of 1:48.75 is just 4.31 seconds off top-seeded Dorman's mark of 1:44.44.
"Hopefully, they will all have a good day and all put their good times together," said Ward of the relay teams.
In the girls 200-yard freestyle, Anderson qualified 11th at 2:06 and Hyatt 15th at 2:07.25. Anderson also qualified 26th in the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 59.09.
Ashley Kirkhart is seeded 17th in the 200-yard individual medley with a 2:24.63 time and 11th in the 100-yard backstroke at 1:05.38. Whitney Merchant is the 26th seed in the 50-yard freestyle at 27.00 — just 1.97 seconds off the top seed — and 17th in the 100-yard breaststroke with a 1:14.96 mark.
Morte is the 11th seed in both the 50 and 100 freestyle. In the 50, Morte is just 1.32 seconds off the top mark in the state and in the 100, he is 3.04 seconds shy of the top time.
"We are certain with the pressure and the day against high competition that he'll finish well," said Ward. "He is trying to knock off a couple seconds in both events."
Ward feels confident that more than one swimmer can finish in the top three Saturday. She admits that a lot of things have to go right in order for that to happen.
"There has to be so many parts to the equation," she said. "They are excited and they are all working hard. Hopefully, if not one, all of them can finish in the top 3."