First Baptist girls seek 7th straight

(L to R) First Baptist High School Swim Team members Logan Kraft and Sara Stansell are one of the reasons First Baptist is having a good year. (Brad Nettles/Staff) 10/10/13

The Augusta Aquatics Center could turn out to be seventh heaven for the First Baptist girls swimming team.

The Hurricanes go after their seventh straight SCISA state championship on Saturday.

“I feel fortunate to have such a talented group of swimmers,” said Sara Kraft, who coaches both the boys and girls teams at First Baptist.

“The girls certainly have a knack of stepping up to the plate at the state meet. Last year, we set two state records in the relays. That’s a testament to how hard the girls work. They want it. They really want it.”

Last year’s title was an exclamation point. The school moved up to Class AAA and some observers felt it might be a challenge to keep the streak going. But the Hurricanes responded with 10 gold medals in 11 events — and the two state records.

First Baptist’s Sara Stansell, Logan Kraft, Meredith Lackey and Abbey Moore set state marks in the 200-yard freestyle relay with a time of 1:54.94 and the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:42.37.

Lackey won the 200 free and shared the 100 butterfly title. Kraft won the 200 individual medley and 500 freestyle. Moore won the 50 freestyle and Stansell won the 100 free and 100 backstroke.

Kraft, whose mother is the coach, has been on state championship teams since she joined the program as a seventh-grader. She could be a member of six state championship teams by the time she graduates.

“As the years go by, it gets harder to win — and the stakes are higher,” said Kraft, a sophomore at the school located in downtown Charleston. “It’s sometimes hard to relax because of the streak. And, it’s tough not to think about it. But when the meet starts, we are able to block it all out.”

While swimming success is a product of countless hours of practice, it also involves instruction and good coaching, Stansell said.

“We are really lucky to have such a good coach,” she said. “I’ve known coach Kraft since I was 6 or 7, and she pushes us to the limit. “There’s no other coach I’d rather swim for at the high school level.”

Porter-Gaud is the defending Class AAA boys’ champ. The Cyclones posted a 244-120 victory over First Baptist to win the title.

Palmetto Christian is the defending girls’ Class AA-A champion, and Newberry is the defending boys’ champ.

Porter-Gaud repeated as the boys’ Class AAA state champ last fall behind Brent Demarest, who led the way with individual victories in the 200 and 500 freestyles. He also was a member of two relay teams that won state titles. He broke his state record in the 500 freestyle with a time of 4:45.26.

Demarest, who is a junior, has won a combined 11 individual gold medals in swimming, cross country and track.