PILOT MOUNTAIN — It all started with a gold medal winning relay. Two and a half hours later, it ended with a celebration. From the opening dive to the last finish, the Forbush swim team was relentless in its pursuit of gold medals and improved times at the Western Piedmont Athletic Conference Championship meet Friday night. The reward for all the hard work and effort was a third consecutive conference crown for the women’s team and a third place showing for the men’s team.
The Falcons started with a flurry of dominance, earning first-place honors in six of the evening’s first seven events en route to bringing home the gold in nine of the 11 women’s events and four of the 11 men’s events overall.
“We had a flawless meet,” said Head Coach Mark Beuter as Forbush capped a strong regular season with a stellar performance at the WPAC Championship.
Led by a quartet of four-year seniors (Jamie Beamguard, Sarah Hayden, Sierra Winters, Samantha Wooten), the Falcons knew this conference meet had the chance to be special, and they cashed in on the opportunity. According to Beuter, this was the first time in his 12 years of high school coaching that all of his seniors had swam all four years.
“It was awesome to be able to see these four seniors’ progression and growth over four years,” said Beuter. “This is a team with great character. It starts with the seniors, and their work ethic carries on down.”
Those seniors, and the rest of the Falcons, set the tone early when the ladies’ relay team of Gina Myers, Winters, Wooten and Hayden executed the 200 Medley Relay to perfection on its way to gold. In the 200 Freestyle, Wooten picked up the gold, while Winters grabbed gold in the 200 Individual Medley.
The Lady Falcons were particularly dominant in the 50 Freestyle, where Hayden earned top honors and teammate Suzie Beamguard won bronze. Myers took second and Emily Post third in the 100 Butterfly, while Hayden swiped another gold in the 100 Freestyle. Then, in the 500 Freestyle, Wooten pulled off the upset of top-seeded Laura Pulliam of West Stokes to take her second individual gold.
“It was a great time drop and I could really hear my teammates cheering me on,” said Wooten.
The relay of E. Post, Kaitlin Post, S. Beamguard and Lauren Holowiti turned in another strong performance with a silver medal showing in the 200 Freestyle Relay and was immediately followed by individual gold medals from Myers in the 100 Backstroke, and Winters in the 100 Breaststroke. The 400 Freestyle Relay team of Winters, Hayden, Wooten and Myers provided the icing on the cake as it rolled to a gold medal and ensured a women’s team title for the Falcons.
Meanwhile, the Forbush men’s team was making a mark of its own. The relay team of Jacob Kepley, Hunter Kepley, Jamie Beamguard and Tyler Sprague kept the winning fever alive as it edged out a strong West Stokes squad by just over half of a second to take gold in the 200 Medley.
“It was a close race and we pulled it out at the end,” said Beamguard.
In the 200 Freestyle, Sprague took silver, while Beamguard took gold in the 200 Individual Medley. Jacob Kepley cruised to victory in the 100 Butterfly and was then followed by Hunter Kepley nabbing a third-place finish in an ultra-competitive 100 Freestyle race.
In one of the best duels of the night, Beamguard settled for silver in a hard-fought race with North Surry’s Nick Bryant in the 500 Freestyle. The men’s 100 Backstroke turned out to be arguably the most exciting finish of the night as the top three finishers were separated by less than eight-tenths of a second. In that race, J. Kepley took home the bronze. Then H. Kepley pulled away for the gold in the 100 Breaststroke.
The Forbush men then finished the night with a silver medal performance in the 400 Freestyle Relay. When the points were tallied, the Forbush men scored 90 team points despite only having four swimmers, good enough for third overall.
As the night drew to a close, Coach Mark Beuter was awarded WPAC Women’s Coach of the Year and Samantha Wooten was awarded WPAC Women’s Swimmer of the Year. Showing just how dominant the Lady Falcons were, only the three Forbush seniors (Hayden, Winters, Wooten) were up for the Women’s Swimmer of the Year award as they each earned two individual and two relay golds.
After the strong meet, the Forbush seniors were ecstatic, but were already looking ahead to the next challenge with regional competition looming and spots at the state championship on the line.
“I’m looking forward to fighting for a spot at states individually for the first time,” said Hayden.
Winters echoed Hayden’s excitement about the next step.
“I’m excited to see this season and the past four years culminate in relay and individual events at regionals and, hopefully, states,” said Winters.
The Falcon swim team will be back in action on Feb. 4 at the 1A/2A Regionals in Huntersville.