ELKINS - A tsunami is brewing in Morgantown and the waters are set to erupt Thursday when reigning state champion Samantha Hall defends her 50 and 100-yard freestyle titles. The top challenger in the 100-yard freestyle, Buckhannon Upshur's Maggie Miller, defeated Hall in the event during the Region III Championships held last Saturday at West Virginia Wesleyan College.
The rivalry is nothing new to the pair. In 2012, the girls tied in the 50-yard freestyle and split the state title.
Hall, now a junior, is a two-time state champion in the 50-yard freestyle and captured last year's 100-yard freestyle title. She has six state titles to her credit, including relay championships.
The Inter-Mountain photos by Ben Simmons
The Elkins Tigers are sending eight swimmers to the state competition at West Virginia University’s Natatorium on Thursday and Friday. Those making the trip include, front row from left, Lauren Cain, Kayla Gainer, Tyler Kenney, Skylee Watson; back row from left, Skout Barger, Tayler Lee, Samantha Hall and Hailea Harper.
"We're rivals and we're friends," Hall said when asked about competing against Miller. "We're on the same club team. So we know each other really well. I beat her last year at states in the 100 freestyle, but she beat me last week at the regionals. So it's kinda going to be a big race. We push each other a lot. We practice harder when we are together. We have a good time racing each other. Our freshman year, we tied at states in the most unlikely race to tie in. We are both really competitive, but at the same time we are really good friends, so it's fun."
At the Region III Championships, Miller knocked her older sister, Courtney Miller, out of the record book by finishing the 100-yard backstroke in 56.52 seconds. Maggie Miller has four state titles to her credit.
"We're like best friends," Miller said of Hall. "We always have that friendly competition. We both have the same will to win. We push each other to go further. I know if I swim against her, I'm going to go fast. Neither one of us wants to lose."
Hall, along with seven other members of the Elkins High School swim team, qualified for the state competition during the Region III Championships.
"We expect to bring some state championships back," EHS coach Joelle Kenney said. "These kids have been working since October and some of them work all year round. They've worked so hard. I wish the whole team could go to the states because they really put a lot of effort in this year."
Those qualifying in individual events for Elkins are: Hall, 100-yard freestyle and 50-yard freestyle; Tyler Kenney, 100-yard backstroke; Kayla Gainer, 50-yard freestyle; Lauren Cain, 200-yard individual medley and 100-yard breaststroke; Skout Barger, 100-yard freestyle; Skylee Watson, 200-yard freestyle. Relay team state qualifiers include: Tayler Lee, Barger, Gainer and Cain, 200-yard medley; Gainer, Cain, Barger and Hall, 200-yard freestyle; and Gainer, Lee, Barger and Hall, 400-yard freestyle. Hailea Harper was chose as the alternate for the relay teams.
Hall, along with Gainer, Cain and Barger are also contending for the state title in the 200-yard relay. Hall and Gainer were on last year's title-winning team.
B-U is sending 10 swimmers to the state competition. Those qualifying include: Miller, 100-yard backstroke and 100-yard freestyle; Patricia Loughney 200-yard individual medley and 100-yard breaststroke; Mackenzie Bosley, 100-yard backstroke and 100-yard fly; Shannon Smith, 500-yard freestyle; Steven Wilson, 100-yard backstroke and 100-yard freestyle. Relay team state qualifiers include: Haley Williams, Loughney, Miller and Smith, 200-yard medley; Maddie Nanners, Loughney, Miller and Smith, 200-yard freestyle; Bosley, Nanners, Williams and Smith, 400-yard freestyle; Servando Arrendo, Logan Warner, Andrew Rapking and Wilson, 200-yard freestyle.
"I'm very pleased with our results," B-U coach Luanne Miller said. "The weather has really played a factor. We've missed a lot of practice and the kids had to rely on going to open swim and club practices. The kids all pulled together and did really well. I'm especially happy with how far the girls relay teams have come. They really stepped up and did what I asked them to do. Individually, everybody did what I expected them to do."
The qualifiers will advance to the state meet scheduled for Thursday and Friday at West Virginia University's Natatorium.