By R. Alan Richardson
Coach Patrick Kicklighter is one positive guy. He’s always happy to be the Swim Dogs’ coach, is super excited, and proud to be coaching and teaching at Morgan County High School. It’s no wonder this group of kids seems to feel the same way. “I’m happy with the kids’ performance this week. We competed against two of the best teams in the area, and competed well against them in our final home meet of the season,” he said after Thursday night’s event. “I’m excited for the future.”
MCHS hosted Clarke Central and Athens Academy in the Winter Invitational. They competed well in the three-team event and saw swimmers taking a number of first, second, and third place finishes (see complete results below). The girls finished second overall in the three team venue.
According to Kicklighter, the program is showing tremendous potential and hopes it will continue to gain momentum in the future. The former track turned swim coach told us, “My workouts are pretty tough, but they’ve found a way to work through them. Due to that positive attitude, they’ve gotten better and improved during the season. We held our own against two outstanding swim programs that brought from 35-50 swimmers on each team.” Morgan fielded around 15 a year ago, but the number has grown to 20 this season, with no end in sight.
It was a huge rebuilding job for the first-year head swimming coach. He commented, “This team has a solid core group that love each other and have fun.” There are talented swimmers in each grade level, including the Middle School’s three eighth grade representatives. He’s somehow found a way to get his team to over excel, it seems.
The biggest challenge of the season is on the horizon for this week as the Dogs will travel to the University of Georgia for what could be a final opportunity to qualify for the State Swim Meet. Each individual race has a minimum qualifying time. It doesn’t matter how many meets you win, you must meet that qualifying time for that race to be entered into the State Meet. The lone swimmer this season to this point is Lady Dog Natalie Rogers who qualified for the 100 freestyle with a time of 58.47 seconds. “We have several swimmers that are so close; within three seconds or less. Natalie is only a few seconds off of also qualifying in the 200 free. Will Paschal is about three seconds off the 100 butterfly, and Bethany McGinnis is only .6 tenths of a second from getting into the 50 free,” Kicklighter added.
The approach leading into this week’s final hoorah will be a little different one. “I’m hoping the adrenaline of competing in a meet of this size will pump them up, so we’ll be backing off some. We want to make sure everybody is rested, healthy, and in the right frame of mind. There are some others that could qualify if they have a special day. It’s a big focus for us all season,” he said.
The conversation ended with a few final thoughts on the season. As usual, they were positive ones. “It’s been an exciting and encouraging season. We have great facilities, great leadership from the kids, and total support from our parent boosters. This group of young men and women is a solid group of people. It makes you grateful about where we’re heading.”
The team will swim at UGA on Thursday, Jan. 16 before heading to the State Meet Feb. 6-8. There is still one possibility that MOCO could host a final meet later this month.