Wednesday February 10th, 2016 7:44PM

STATE CHAMPS: Powers dominates on big day for area stars at state meet

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
ATLANTA -- Paul Powers didn't celebrate much after his first two gold medals on Saturday -- but after the third, the North Hall standout was all smiles.

"I'm on cloud nine right now," Powers said -- and with good reason.

Powers -- already the state record holder in the 50 and 100 yard freestyle -- smashed through the 20-second mark in the first leg of the boys 200 freestyle relay at the GHSA swimming and diving championships in Atlanta, leading the Trojans out with a 19.91 that they rode to a championship.

"I've been trying to break that 20 mark for a year now, and the fact I did it on the realy made it 10 times better," the North Hall junior said. "I had all my teammates there with me, and they know how hard I've worked to do that, and to help them win a title was just amazing."

The relay victory highlighted a stellar day for Powers, North Hall and northeast Georgia swimming in general, as the Trojans notched three gold medals -- including Powers' 50 and 100 free, a second place finish for Gainesville's Colin Monaghan and a fourth place finish for Ty Powers.

"We definitely came to show them what Hall County swimming is all about," said Paul Powers, who helped North Hall to a fourth place finish overall. "This is going to motivate a lot of younger kids, because they see what we're doing, and they're going to want to put up more records and win more state titles too."

Powers certainly set a high bar over the weekend. The Trojans star broke state records in the 50 (20.00) and 100 free (44.02) in Friday's preliminary round, and went on to claim both championship races, despite falling just short of those marks.

"I wasn't very happy with that," Powers said. "I wasn't but what that was was motivation for the relay."

Powers just edged out his younger brother to retain his 50 free crown -- his fingertips touching the wall in 20.21 seconds -- compared to Ty's 20.80.

"I knew I had to beat him today, and that he was coming for me," Paul Powers said of Ty. "He set his best in 50, and I knew I would have to give it everything to beat him."

It was a thrilling finish in possibly the most popular event of the day and had the crowd at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center roaring.

"Those two boys are powerhouses like you can't believe," North Hall coach Debby Duncan said. This is a once in a lifetime type of thing."

While the elder Powers needed every inch of his 6-foot-5 frame to claim his first gold medal of the day, the junior needed no such strain in his second event, dominating the field in the 100 free.

Powers surged ahead over the first 25 yards and continued to pull away, eventually touching the wall in 44.49 seconds -- almost three full seconds ahead of Marist's Braxton Young.

"I was gunning for a new record in that race, but I messed up my second and third turns," Powers said. "From there I was just trying to make up ground."

Monaghan also made a statement at the meet, as the sophomore charged to a silver medal in the 200 individual medley (1:52.86) and a fourth place finish in the 100 butterfly (51.17).

"I'm pretty happy," Monaghan said. "To be top five in both events was awesome, and it's a great experience."

Monaghan missed out on first place in the 200 IM by less than a second, pushing Westminster's Derek Cox all the way through -- the freshman nipping ahead with a 1:52.00 finish.

"I knew Derek had that stamina, but I was going to be there right with him the whole way," said Monaghan, who made a personal best in the race. "He just had me right there at the end."

The Red Elephants standout says his biggest goal now is simple: "I'm just going to start pushing more and more and prove to college coaches that I can swim at that level."

Several other area swimmers also put up strong finishes on Saturday, including Chestatee's Tristan Taylor, who took seventh in the 200 free (1:45.43). Teammate Jack Hene also finished in 1:48.05 in the B final.

The younger Powers also finished fourth in the 100 breaststroke, finishing in 58.67, while North Hall opened the day with a third place finish for its 200 medley relay squad (1:38.21).

"We're a sprint, freestyle team, so to be able to have those finishes was just awesome too," said Paul Powers, who will now turn his full focus on club season -- and cutting into that 19.91.

"That was a stepping stone," Powers said ."It was huge for me, but I've got to look at 18s and low 18s -- that's my big goal. It may take me until college to get there, but that's what I'm looking at."

OTHER AREA FINISHERS: Riverside's 200 freestyle relay team finished in 1:32.72 in the B final; Chestatee's 200 free relay team finished in 1:32.95 in the B final. ... Buford had several strong finishers on Saturday, including Daniel Brooks, who was eighth in the 50 free (24.97). Brooks also finished in 54.33 the 100 free B final. The Lady Wolves 200 free relay team also finished eighth (1:42.98), while the 400 free relay finished in 3:54.48 in the B final. Buford's Brittany Litke finished in 59.18 in the 100 back.
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