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Hilltopper swimmers sweep NET regional championships

February 3rd, 2007 11:03 pm by JACK GOODSON

BRISTOL, Tenn. - Science Hill swim coach Chris Corragio deemed this "Champions Week."

His Hilltoppers did more than live up to the billing.

For the second consecutive year, Science Hill swept the Northeast Tennessee Regional Swimming and Diving Championships, held at Tennessee High's Viking Hall.

"It's been 24 weeks leading up to this week that earned us this victory," Corragio said. "If these kids hadn't put in the work throughout the season, we would've never won."

Last season, the Hilltoppers held off a talented Sullivan South side. This time around, their performance was decisive.

A combined team total of 732.5 points easily distanced Science Hill from South (528) and third-place Tennessee High (379). The female competition saw the Hill (357.5) best the Lady Rebels (299), Tennessee High (236) and Dobyns-Bennett (114.5).

In the male combined, the 'Toppers closed with 375 points. Morristown finished a distant second (232), while South (229) settled for third.

"We were ready to go," Science Hill's Kyle Owens said. "Coach (Corragio) gave us pep talks all week. It got us fired up."

Owens, as per usual, needed little motivation.

The sophomore sensation shattered a pair of records he set just a year ago. Owens shaved a full four seconds off his 200 individual medley record with a time of 1:54.33 - which also qualified him for NISCA All-America status. Later in the night, he eclipsed his previous mark in the 100 butterfly (52.48).

"I was really happy," he said of his 200 IM time. "It was a record but also an All-American time. I was really excited. I was going for it - I had some doubts - but I got it."

Kyle's sister Sam - older by a full minute - produced a superb display in the girls' 500 free (5:27.91), besting No. 1 qualifier Kelly Newsome of Morristown (5:33.44) by nearly six seconds. She also claimed a piece of the Lady 'Toppers' 200 free relay (1:45.59) victory, swimming the opening leg.

Then in the 50 free, Owens and D-B's Britt Brewster produced the most unlikely of scenarios - they tied (25.85).

"My best event is my 50 freestyle and that was really interesting because Brittney Brewster and I tied," Sam Owens said. "That wasn't expected at all.

"I was like, ‘What?!'"

South's season, which has been plagued by injury and illness, appears to be steadying. Kristiana Feeser continued her resurgence with a pair of wins, in the 100 fly (1:00.51) and 100 back (1:01.85).

The 2005-06 NISCA/Speedo All-American, who has battled illness throughout the season, looks close to full strength heading into state. Rebels coach Brooke Robbins hopes so.

"She's been sick for about a month, but she swam really well," Robbins said. "She's not where she wants to be but she's got three weeks to get there.

"My kids swam their hearts out," the coach added. "It's been a long, hard struggle but we're starting to come around."

Tennessee High's Brittany Estep captured the girls' 200 free (2:02.32) early in the meet before returning later to break the meet mark in the 100 breaststroke (1:08.91). Estep also provided a key leg for the Lady Vikings' winning 200 medley team (1: 59.07).

Morristown's Will Trussler won the boys' 100 free (49.69) and 100 backstroke (54.35) - a new NET record. He was also a member of Morristown's meet and pool record-breaking 200 medley relay team (1:42.62) and the 200 free relay team (1:32.65) which also set a meet record.

Teammate Chris Kelly shattered the NET record in the 500 free (4:47.98).

Afterward, Corragio said he has no problem with celebrating the win - for one more day at least.

"We still have some goals ahead of us," he said. "We can enjoy this tonight and tomorrow, and enjoy the Super Bowl, but Monday we're getting back to work. We've got three weeks before state."

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