Related links
Teams in this post:

All-Area boys swimming


Hoggard's Joseph High is the boys swimmer of the year. (Photo by Photo by Jesse Fath/Starnews Media)


The Hoggard High School swimming and diving team had paparazzi at the Mideastern Conference meet. As its members exited the bus, there was a camera in their faces. As they walked around the pool, the camera followed them. 

The only thing funnier than having a camera trailing them around was getting to relive the footage at the end-of-season awards banquet. Both players and coaches cracked up watching the playback. 

That's what Joseph High wanted. 

"We probably had the most fun regionals we'd ever had, and regular season. And I feel like it's because all four of the captains just stepped up and made it a point to do that," Hoggard coach Tammy Pruden said. "Being able to see that (video) at the banquet, that was something that he brought to the table. That was really fun."

The senior has always been successful in the pool. He made the NCHSAA state championship meet in two events as both a sophomore and junior. His final season as a prep swimmer was no different. He finished 19th overall in the 500-yard freestyle in 4 minutes, 50.41 seconds at states. His time of 1:56.44 in the 200-yard individual medley placed him 11th. He was also the conference boys swimmer of the year after earning a pair of first-team slots in the 200 medley and 500 freestyle. 

Getting back to states and posting quality times weren't the only priorities for the StarNews All-Area boys swimmer of the year. Granted, he wanted to conclude his prep career the best way possible. But there was more to it than that. 

"Definitely going into the season, it was more about having fun. It was my last year, I wanted everyone to have fun," High said. 

"I kind of talked and I said I wanted to swim every event that I could, get as many different things in, have fun. Then when it came down to regionals and states, there was definitely places where I think I could have done better, but at the same time I still did well."

Elected along with teammate Nathanial Hanson as a team captain, High went to work making sure the season was as much fun as it was competitive. The Vikings traveled with New Hanover to regionals and states. High was a big reason the two teams became very close and got to know each other. 

In past years, Hoggard had ridden with Ashley or Laney, so preexisting relationships with those teams helped all four New Hanover County schools get better aquatinted. It resulted in a lot of laughs, to say the least. 

Pruden noted there are two kinds of leaders – those who are vocal and in your face, and those who quietly make things happen, without anyone really taking notice.

"He kind of rallied the troops from the ground up and kept that men's team really in a positive mindset and in a goal-oriented mindset of encouragement," Pruden said. 

"He does his best example by what he does in the pool for sure. Those guys really do look up to him because of his talent. And they also want to step up to the plate to do well for their team because of that."

Finishing strong in two events left High satisfied. He calls his final laps something that "gives me a great sense of accomplishment." 

As of now, High doesn't plan to swim in college. He's on his way to the University of North Carolina, but just for school. He's contemplating possibly walking on, but he's not sure if it's what he really wants to do. 

If his swimming career is over, High says it's going to be difficult to let go. But that's something he's OK with. He went out the way he wanted to. 

"If this was my last year," he said, "I definitely wanted to have the best year possible."

 

All-Area boys swimming

First Team

Joseph High, senior, Hoggard (Player of Year)

High, the Mideastern Conference swimmer of the year, was the only non-New Hanover swimmer to earn two first-team All-MEC spots as an individual, taking the 200-yard individual medley and 500 freestyle. He was also on the Vikings' 200 and 400 free relay teams that earned second-team all-conference honors. At regionals, High took third in the 200 IM and eighth in the 500 free. He advanced to states and took 12th and 19th in those events. 

 

Jack Best, sophomore, New Hanover

Best was best in two individual MEC events, earning first-team honors in the 200 free and 100 backstroke. He was also a member of the Wildcats' all-conference 200 medley and 400 free relay teams. At regionals, Best placed sixth in the 100 free and seventh in the 100 backstroke. Best advanced to states, placing 15th and 18th in his events. He was also on the 200 medley relay team that placed 17th. 

 

Michael Bullard, junior, New Hanover

Bullard was another New Hanover swimmer to garner four first-team all-MEC spots, winning the 50 free individually before helping the three relay teams to wins. He tied Heritage's Stephen Tesslar for 12th in the 50 free at regionals. 

 

Anthony Messina, freshman, New Hanover

Messina also earned four spots on the all-MEC first-team list. He was tops in the 100 free and a member of the 200 medley, 200 free and 400 free relay teams that grabbed wins. He placed 12th in the 100 free at regionals. 

 

Jimbo Short, junior, Hoggard

Short completed the individual first-team all-MEC honorees, winning the 100 butterfly. He was a second-team pick for the 100 backstroke and a member of the 400 free relay. At regionals, Short tied for seventh in the 100 butterfly and was eighth in the 100 backstroke.

 

Honorable mention

Laney–Anthony Balkus; Hoggard–Raymond Samuel, Cole Beck, Will Schneider, Jacob Hannum; New Hanover–Ian Barnes, Griffin Lisle; Topsail–Case Marshall

 

All-Conference

Mideastern Conference

Honors: Player of the Year–Joseph High, Hoggard; Coach of the Year–Caroline Little, New Hanover; Team Sportsmanship–South Brunswick.

First Team: 200 Medley Relay–New Hanover (Jack Best, Griffin Lisle, Anthony Messina, Michael Bullard). 200 Freestyle–Jack Best, NHHS. 200 IM–Joseph High, Hoggard. 50 Free–Michael Bullard, NHHS. 100 Butterfly–Jimbo Short, Hoggard. 100 Free–Anthony Messina, NHHS. 500 Free–Joseph High, Hoggard. 200 Free Relay–New Hanover (Ian Barnes, Griffin Lsle, Anthony Messina, Michael Bullard). 100 Backstroke–Jack Best, NHHS. 100 Breaststroke–Griffin Lisle, NHHS. 400 Free Relay–New Hanover (Ian Barnes, Anthony Messina, Michael Bullard, Jack Best).

Second Team: 200 Medley Relay–Hoggard (Thomas Heffron, Nathanial Hanson, Cole Beck, Raymond Samuel). 200 Free–Case Marshall, Topsail. 200 IM–Jacob Hannum, Hoggard. 50 Free–Raymond Samuel, Hoggard. 100 Fly–Cole Beck, Hoggard. 100 Free–Anthony Balkus, Laney. 500 Free–Will Schneider. 200 Free Relay–Hoggard (Raymond Samuel, Jimbo Short, Ryan Hardison, Joseph High). 100 Back–Jimbo Short, Hoggard. 100 Breast–Nathanial Hanson, Hoggard. 400 Free Relay–Hoggard (Joseph High, Carter Howe, Ryan Hardison, Jimbo Short).