It was a messy end to the two-day State Meet at Opelika on Saturday.
But for the Arab swim team, it was a beautiful mess.
After initially presenting the first-place trophy for medium-size teams (20-40 swimmers) to Albertville, meet officials were forced to realign the teams when they realized they had incorrectly put Arab in large team division.
Arab totaled 477 points compared to Albertville’s 458.5. Arab finished 10th overall and Albertville 12th.
After the snafu was cleared up, Albertville’s coaches and Arab coaches – all of whom are friends – got together for the fun photo above.
Finishing first “was a big surprise to me,” said Riptide head coach Richard Moser. “I knew that we would do well, but I was not expecting that.
“It’s a huge accomplishment to go from fifth in your division – we did that last year – to first. Finishing 10th of 27 teams is a big accomplishment.
While a lot of Riptide swimmers posted good results at the state and all season long, Moser couldn’t point to any one team member who made the difference from last year to this year.
“We scored 307 points last year. We scored 470 points this year. So, that isn’t one swimmer or two swimmers,” he said. “That’s a whole team worth of improvement.
“For example an individual that scores first place in an event can bring home 20 points. So, for us to improve by 170 means that it was a team effort.”
The 8-under boys 100-yard freestyle relay team of Owen Lambert, Bentley Bowling, Colt Yates and Braylen Wilson broke the Riptide record the group set earlier this season. They also finished second overall.
Arab’s 11-12 girls 200 freestyle relay team also set a new Riptide record. Sarah Beth Sularin, Maddie Nunley, Julie Stapler and Elizabeth Skidmore broke the team record they set earlier this summer.
They finished fifth overall.
“We had some great swims,” Moser said. The 8-and-under boys took second in the state in the free relay. That’s a huge accomplishment for those boys.
“They are all going to be huge building blocks for the future of this team and we will continue to rely upon younger swimmers to keep getting better.
“Also, the 9-10 and 11-12 girls are as deep as we have ever had at Arab. They keep getting better and its going to be fun to see what they can accomplish over the next few years. They will give the top teams in the state a run for their money.
“So, we have lots of talent. We’re not losing a whole lot for next year. So, the goal is to continue to grow the program and get better.”
Moser also has seen more than talent this year.
“I know that I keep harping on team bonds and culture, but honestly that really pushed these kids over the edge this year,” he said. “It’s a lot easier to fight for your teammates than it is to go out there and swim for yourself. These kids were able to do that.
“Some of my favorite takeways were from the kids getting ready to swim. They would huddle together, say a little prayer and then support each other.
“Seeing them come together like that has made me so proud.”