Monday May 30th, 2016 4:37PM

Powers ready to lead Hall County charge in GHSA swim championships

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
Paul Powers "hated" home school, but It's undeniable that the experience fostered at least one positive: it got him into the pool.

"I needed a PE credit, so we picked swimming," Powers said.

Six years later, Powers hardly leaves the water's edge and with good reason. The North Hall junior -- who happily returned to the school house not long into his home education career -- is one of the top youth swimmers in the nation.

The Trojan standout is also a defending GHSA champion, and he, along with his younger brother, Ty -- also tearing up the youth swim ranks -- will look to lead Hall County's assault on 2013 state championships this weekend in Atlanta.

"Hall County is going to show up and make some noise this weekend," Powers said. "We've got a lot of athletes who are capable of medaling. Swimming is really growing in popularity around here, but we're also getting quality athletes too."

That certainly includes Gainesville High's Colin Monaghan, who enters this weekend's championships with the top high school meet qualifying time in the boys 200 yard Individual Medley (1 minute, 56.60 seconds). The sophomore is also seeded fifth in the 100 butterfly.

That "quality" also includes Ty Powers, a sophomore, who is seeded second in the 50 freestyle and is a member of the Trojans 200 free relay team -- also featuring Paul Powers, Bradley Brown and David Schofield -- which enters the weekend as the top seed (1:29.77) in the Class A-AAAAA competition. Chestatee, Flowery Branch, Riverside Military Academy and Buford will also send athletes to the campus of Georgia Tech looking to make a splash in the state pool.

Few area swimmers have ever made a splash like the elder Powers, however.

In fact, few competitors around the nation have ever equaled or bettered the marks Paul Powers has notched over the past year-and-a-half.

Currently ranked the second-best youth sprinter in the nation, Powers has set state records in the 50 and 100 free and has already competed in the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials.

"I was the first 16-year-old to go under 20 seconds (in the 50 free)," Powers said. "My ultimate goal is to get a gold in the 2016 Olympics (in Rio de Janeiro). But you've got to have drive to get there."

Drive has not been a problem for Powers, who stormed to the 50 free title and a 100 free runner-up finish in last year's state championships. In fact the junior spends roughly 16 hours a week training, including three-and-a-half hours in the pool on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, followed by shorter sessions on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. That does not include the daily work to be completed on dry land, including weight training -- not to mention time spent in transport and school work.

"We work on core stuff, balance, stability, explosiveness," said Powers, who stands 6-foot-5, and currently weighs 200 pounds -- though that is on the low end of his weight range. "I'm tapered right now to gain speed. During the thick of early season and preseason training I'll get up to 220-215 pounds."

Certainly the strategy is paying off for Powers, who rises at 5:20 a.m. to begin his training under Splash Aquatic Club coach Andy Deichert -- "Sleep deprivation is the toughest thing, but I try to catch up when I can," said Powers, who also trains with North Hall coach Debby Duncan. "Sometimes I sleep in Andy's office by the pool. Balancing everything is tough; you have to your priorities straight."

Powers' state qualifying time in the 100 free is almost a full two seconds faster than this weekend's No. 2 seed, Marist's Braxton Young, though Powers knows he will have to be at his best to retain the 50 free gold -- against very familiar competition.

"My brother is faster than I was at his age," Paul Powers said of Ty. "It's a friendly competition. We love each other and pull for each other, but he's going to be gunning for me. He wants to take me down, but I can't let him beat me."

The brothers also hope to share at least one gold medal in the 200 freestyle relay.

"Really I think I'd like to win that one more than anything," Paul Powers said. "The atmosphere in the relays is such a drive, you've got three other guys depending on you, and you're all working together... I didn't think we'd come into this meet with the No. 1 seed, and that puts a big target on your back."

It's a weight that Powers carries well on broad shoulders, and while he is far from a braggart, he is happy to help do what he can to forward the sport in Hall County and northeast Georgia.

"I think my success has helped the sport mainly through publicity," Powers said. "Kids hear more about it now, and that's sparking interest in younger kids. That's important. Our middle school team was almost as big as our high school team this year."

And while Powers knows he will have to push himself to continue his dominance, he does so knowing most of his competition is using him as a measuring stick -- not an opponent.

"Swimming is kind of an oddball sport -- everyone in swimming is really nice," Powers said. "The social aspect of the sport is what helped draw me into it. Our local swim club is a tight-knit group, and everyone out there is supportive and pulls for each other."

That said, Powers is also focused on doing the best for himself -- especially this weekend, as collegiate coaches from around the nation will use the meet as a gauge for how hard they will recruit members of next year's senior class.

"This weekend is a stepping stone for college because it's the last short-course meet of the season," said Powers, who has received interest from virtually every collegiate program in the nation, including Stanford, Cal-Berkeley, Texas, Georgia, Auburn, Tennessee and Kentucky. "I want to make it as low a time as possible."

Swimming at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center, that shouldn't be much of an issue.

"I'm comfortable there; I've raced in it a bunch, and it's a fast pool," said Powers, who adds that he doesn't have time for nerves. "If you get nervous or worried that just wastes energy."

When you're competing on Powers' level, every ounce counts.
© Copyright 2016
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Bartus, Icemen shuts out Gwinnett
Garrett Bartus pitched a 42 save shutout, as the Evansville IceMen topped the Gwinnett Gladiators on a New year
10:23PM ( 2 years ago )
Gator Bowl Preview Capsule
A rematch of last year's Capital One Bowl, which Georgia won 45-31 in Orlando.
8:52PM ( 2 years ago )
Millsap's 34 leads Hawks past Celtics
Paul Millsap had season highs with 34 points and 15 rebounds as the Hawks rallied from an 18-point deficit for a 92-91 win over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday afternoon.
7:44PM ( 2 years ago )
Big Red Shootout: Buford foils Lady Elephants' upset bid in finale
Buford junior Camille Anderson knows to forget about the past during games.
11:09PM ( 2 years ago )
Boys basketball: Knights rebound with win over Centennial
The Johnson boys bounced back after a loss to Grayson on Friday with a 94-72 win Saturday night over Centennial in the Duluth Jingle Jam.
10:43PM ( 2 years ago )
Girls basketball: Dawson falls in Battle of States finals
Dawson County fell behind early and could not complete the comeback in a 70-65 loss to Hayesville, N.C. in the championship game of The Battle of the States Tournament Saturday night.
10:38PM ( 2 years ago )
High School Sports
Truex seeking bigger things after Charlotte romp
Truex says his dominating win at the Coca-Cola 600 is just the tip of what team can achieve
12:09PM ( 4 hours ago )
IndyCar hoping to carry momentum from 500 into future races
Race organizers and IndyCar officials eager to build on the momentum from the historic 100th running of the Indianapolis 500
2:17AM ( 14 hours ago )
Truex’s luck turns with dominating win In Coca-Cola 600
CONCORD, NC - The heartbreak kid survived 600 miles without another broken heart. Instead, Martin Truex, Jr. broke records in Sunday night’s victory in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, a race in which the driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Toyota set new standards for domination.
By Reid Spencer-NASCAR Wire Service
12:41AM ( 15 hours ago )
Dietrich hits HR, drives in 4 as Marlins beat Braves
Derek Dietrich hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer and drove in four runs before being hit on the back of his head by a foul ball hit into his dugout, and the Miami Marlins beat Atlanta 7-3 on Sunday to avoid being swept by the last-place Braves for the second time this season.
By The Associated Press
12:22AM ( 16 hours ago )
Bulldogs eliminated, McCoy still alive at NCAAs
The No. 6-ranked Georgia men’s golf team was eliminated from the NCAA Championships on Sunday, but senior and former Habersham Central standout Lee McCoy remained in the hunt for national medalist honors.
By AccessWDUN Staff
9:28PM ( 19 hours ago )