That isn’t to say the Lady Eagles don’t have a lot going for them. Rather, it shows how far the rest of the county has come.
With the opening of the Cherokee County Aquatic Center last spring, teams are finding it easier to get practice time, as opposed to traveling to facilities in neighboring Cobb and Forsyth counties.
The end result appears to be an increase in overall talent.
River Ridge coach Sarah Goodbread is particularly excited about having the Sixes Road aquatic center just a few miles from the school’s campus on Arnold Mill Road.
“This will eliminate long distance traveling to meets and, hopefully, allow parents and students to be able to come watch more meets,” Goodbread said. “The facility is top-notch and my swimmers are proud to call it their new home.”
Sequoyah coach Nell Hess echoed the sentiment.
“The new aquatic center is beautiful,” she said. “My team is enjoying practicing in the same pool in which they will swim in meets. It gives all of us that home-court advantage feel, so they are becoming quite comfortable with the pool and particularly the starting blocks, which should be beneficial for competing in meets. There is a large spectator area up top so we hope we have a large crowd watching our meets.”
As for the swimmers in the pool, Creekview has added some depth. While not competing alongside Etowah in Class AAAAAA, the Lady Grizzlies could be in the hunt for a county title for the first time.
A big test will come Saturday for the Cherokee Relays, which are being held in the county for the first time. Each of the six high schools will compete.
Etowah will continue to be led by a group of talented veterans. Among them are a trio of seniors, who recently signed letters of intent to compete in college — Megan Young (Georgia Tech), Lauren Oglesby (Gardner-Webb) and Taylor Weiss (Arkansas).
“These three girls will definitely be ones we will count on for the season,” Etowah coach Virginia Richards said.
Other returners include Finley Billings, Katie Taylor and Caroline Taylor. Freshmen looking to make an impact include Delana Crook, Caitlyn Pallas and Taylor Almy.
All-American diver Madison DuVall is also back for her senior year, but because the new aquatic center does not have a diving well, she cannot compete in home meets.
Woodstock, another perennial challenger for the county title, also plans to use Saturday’s meet as a gage. The Lady Wolverines suffered a few setbacks in the offseason with injuries and relocations costing them a handful of underclassmen, on top of a large graduating class from last season.
Coach J.T. Gillin isn’t worried.
“Still, the girls have plenty of returning talent, including arguably the top returning swimmer in the county, Lauren Case,” Gillin said.
Joining Case are returning sophomores Kailey Austin, Megan O’Meara, Kenady Kilgore and Madison Reeg. Seniors Jamie Maloney, Rachel Steppe and Madison Tank also return.
Not only that, but Gillin is impressed with some of his younger swimmers.
“The new wave of swimmers are led by Abbey Barrett, Jackie Csuback, Amber Miller and Mikayla Powell,” he said. “The girls should challenge Etowah for the county championship again this year.”
Creekview may also challenge Etowah for that county title.
In a tri-meet with Etowah and Sequoyah, the Lady Grizzlies posted a victory of nearly 30 points, thanks to strong performance by several young swimmers such as Emily Snyder and Anna Knowlton.
Veterans like Brittany Crease — already a state-qualifier in two events — Jordan Kendall and Lauren Griffin will further add to the depth.
River Ridge has solid competitors returning in captain Emma Burke, Katie Brown, Avery Blackmon, Catesby Penn, Micalea Campagna and Chantal LaFlamme.
Goodbread expects the team to produce a few state-qualifiers.
“LaFlamme qualified the 100 breaststroke at the meet this past weekend,” Goodbread said. “I think the girls 200 medley relay team (of Brown, LaFlamme, Burke and Blackmon) will get a state-qualifying cut this season. My goal for this season is to double the number of individual and relay swimmers from last year that qualify for the state meet.”
Sequoyah, which has struggled with depth in recent years, is looking to change that trend. The Lady Chiefs already have one state-qualifier in freshman Kamryn Carter, while Sophie Roy, Kristina Kosloski, and Rachel Pelzek should also have strong seasons.
Cherokee continues to struggle to fill its roster. Among the bright spots are Kayla Nash, Lauren Moss, Stacie Dangerfield and Alex Hofstetter.