Friday, December 04, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers win big at swim meet

Leader sports editor

The Cabot boys’ and girls’ swim teams each won their second meet of the season Thursday, beating out seven other schools to win the Cabot Classic at Veterans’ Memorial Park in Cabot.

The Lady Panthers won by more than 300 points, scoring 683 to second-place Jonesboro’s 366. Pocahontas, a first-year team, finished third with 287 points.

Cabot swim coach Brian Bowen is losing a few seniors from this year’s team that have been major contributors for several years, but swimming participation is growing in Cabot and the future still looks bright.

“Payton Jones, Jessie Baldwin and Caytee Wright are graduating this year and that’s going to hurt us,” said Bowen. “But when I look at this freshmen group, and then the freshmen that will be coming in next year, I think Cabot is looking at several years of being a really strong team.”

The team is the largest it’s ever been this year at 38 swimmers and the sport has been given a seventh-period class time that Bowen says aids the team a lot, but also may limit the squad to 38 in the future.

“It’s a class now and you’re limited on the number of kids you can have in a class,” Bowen said. “I don’t really know how that’s going to work yet. I don’t know if we can have kids compete that aren’t actually in the class or exactly how all that’s going to work out. The top teams all have about 40 to 50 swimmers, so we’ll be right there with a competitive number. The main thing that’s going to help us is that we have some divers coming in.”

Swimming and diving all count towards one meet total, and Cabot’s lack of divers has been a detriment in state and conference meets. The pool the team competes in is only five feet deep and has no board. Bowen and coach Victoria Wadley are working on a way to get divers to UALR to practice once a week. And when the new aquatic center being built on 321 spur is finished, divers will have a place to practice throughout the summer.

“That new aquatic center is going to have a one-meter board, which is what high schools compete on,” Bowen said. “So by next year, we could have kids that have been practicing daily for three months when school starts. Then we can find a way to get them to UALR once a week just to stay brushed up. That will be a big help. Just having divers is a big thing, even if it’s just simple dives because those points are so valuable.”

In Thursday’s meet, Searcy’s Rachel McGuirt was the only swimmer preventing a Lady Panther sweep of every individual race. McGuirt won the 200- and 500-yard freestyle races. Cabot swimmers won the other six.

Wright won the 50- and 100-yard freestyle sprints. Senior Jessie Baldwin won the 100- and 200-yard butterfly and backstroke events, and junior Melanie Abbott won the 100-yard breaststroke and the 200-yard individual medley.

Cabot also won all three relay races.

The Cabot boys won by nearly 300 points. The Panthers scored 549 to second-place Pocahontas’ 266. Jonesboro was third with 161. Individual results for the boys’ meet were not available on Friday, but look for those details in Wednesday’s Leader.

The Panthers’ next scheduled meet at Pocahontas on Dec. 10 was canceled, so a long layoff awaits Cabot swimmers. The team’s next meet will be Jan. 9 at UALR.