High School Sports

Paul Dunbar sweeps Region 5 swimming titles

Paul Dunbar's Jenna Ballinger jumped into the pool as Courtney Younger finished her lap in the 200-yard freestyle relay, one of two relay races won by the Bulldogs. Ballinger won the 100 free.
Paul Dunbar's Jenna Ballinger jumped into the pool as Courtney Younger finished her lap in the 200-yard freestyle relay, one of two relay races won by the Bulldogs. Ballinger won the 100 free.

RICHMOND — Nothing unusual about Saturday's 5th Region swimming results at Eastern Kentucky University.

Paul Dunbar won the combined team title for the 10th time in 11 years. What was different was a region meet without Tim Cahill.

During a pre-meet ceremony, the event was dedicated to the late longtime meet director and Model coach, who died Aug. 20, 2010.

"I miss him tremendously," said Madison Central senior Kaylin Burchell, who won the first Tim Cahill Outstanding Performance Award for her victory in the 100-yard breaststroke.

Burchell, who began her career at Model before moving to Central after her sophomore year, swam about 10 years under Cahill's guidance. Cahill's widow, Judy, presented the performance award to a sobbing Burchell.

Burchell said the coach's death weighed on her mind.

"Especially here (Model's home pool). It's just not the same," Burchell said. "He's definitely here in spirit."

Dunbar swept girls' and boys' team titles for the first time since 2004.

The Bulldogs topped Henry Clay 226.5-187 for girls' honors and 500.5-392 in the combined. Dunbar beat Tates Creek 274-229 for the boys' title.

"Both guys and girls put on a nice effort to come together as a team and produce the goods," said Eddie Clement, in his first year as coach of the Bulldogs after five seasons at Tates Creek. "Before the meet, I felt a little ... nervous. I knew the girls and boys could produce first place, but you never know what's going to happen."

The top two finishers in each event advance to the state meet at the University of Louisville, Feb. 24-26. Also advancing will be the 14 next-best performers from around the state in each event.

"I think we have a real good shot in quite a few of the events," Clement said. "There's some big teams from Louisville. It's the annual challenge."

Dunbar won both the boys' and girls' 200-yard freestyle relays. The girls also won the 400-yard relay. Jenna Ballinger, who swam on both winning girls' relays, also took first in the 100 freestyle.

Ballinger's win came soon after Madison Central's Rikki Babuka dethroned her in the 200 freestyle. The loss provided motivation, though.

"Yeah, I was ready for it," Ballinger said after she and Babuka finished 1-2. "It's my senior year, so I was really excited about the 100 free because I've been doing well in that this year."

Babuka, also a senior, earned the nod for Outstanding Competitor. She helped the Indians win the medley relay and place second in the 400 free relay.

Burchell also swam those relays and won the 100-yard butterfly.

"It feels really good. I'm excited for state," said Burchell, who will compete next year for Alabama. "It feels even better that our team's done awesome. I couldn't ask for a better regionals."

Central also got a first-place finish from seventh-grader Morgan Lakes in the 200 individual medley.

Ohio State-bound Nick Wrightson of Henry Clay won the boys' Outstanding Competitor award.

Wrightson broke his own meet record in the 200 freestyle (1:42.23), repeated as champion in the 500 free in near-record time, and helped the Blue Devils to wins in the 200 medley and 400 free relays.

"I was really excited about that because I was over half-a-second faster than I was last year at this meet," Wrightson said of his record-setting win. "The next two weeks, at state, I'm looking to try to break the record."

Lexington Catholic senior George Greenhalgh swept the 50 freestyle and 100 breaststroke.

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