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Franks, Mauldin lead South girls to county crown

On Friday night at the SPC Championships, Leslie Franks was the star for South. On Tuesday at the Rowan County Championships, she had to share the spotlight. Good thing her co-star was teammate Nicole Mauldin. Franks and Mauldin earned Co-Swimmer of the Year honors for their efforts in leading the Raiders to the county title, scorching the field to defeat runner-up Salisbury 177 to 92.
It wasn’t an easy road for Mauldin. The senior has endured a frustrating year of injuries, spending the entire fall and much of December out of the pool as a result.
“It has been a frustrating season in a lot of ways, because I knew I could be better than I was,” Mauldin said. “But I kept at it, and I’m finally seeing the results of pushing through it. I am a stronger athlete for it and I can’t wait to see what my teammates and I do at regionals.”
The story on Tuesday was the most certainly comeback of Nicole Mauldin. She swept to victory in both the 50 free and 100 free, anchoring the 200 free relay to a victory while leading off the winning 400 free relay. Franks swam with typical ferocity, edging Salisbury’s Sharmi Amin in the 200 IM before picking up a convincing win in the 100 breaststroke. Faith Casswell pitched in with her own individual win in the 100 backstroke. Joining those 3 on the all-county team were Taylor Kluttz, Casey Pruitt, Madilyn Jones, Samantha Kennerly and Sabrina Broadway, who all took part in winning relays. Kluttz (200 free and 100 free) and Pruitt (200 IM and 500 free) medaled individually as well. Kylie Labbe added a bronze in the 100 backstroke.
Salisbury’s McKenzie Stevens had a dominating morning of her own, winning the 200 freestyle by 20 seconds and the 100 butterfly by 8. But this is nothing new for the Hornet star. She’s been swimming laps around county opponents for four years. This year she put Salisbury on her back and delivered them to a 2nd place team finish. Amelia Steinman and Sharmi Amin also had a pair of podium swims. The three teamed up with Shelby Holden for 2nd in the 200 medley relay and Allie Knorr for a 2nd in the 400 free relay.
East’s Hailey Bartleson put an exclamation point on her swimming career with a run-away county title in the 500 freestyle. The distance specialist picked up a silver in the 200 free also. She led East to a 3rd place finish in Rowan County. Brooke Waller and Melissa Fischer teamed up for big points in the 100 breaststroke, finishing 3rd and 4th, respectively, qualifying for regionals. Jessica Yelland had a terrific swim in the 500 to win bronze and a spot on the All-County roster. Karlie Neigel, Tori Gaul and Faith Faller were strong for the Mustangs as well.
For the 4th place Cougars, Jana Bradshaw and Ashlee Wagoner were solid. Bradshaw was runner-up in the 100 backstroke while also picking up a 5th place in the 100 freestyle. Wagoner is one to watch in future years. On Tuesday, she finished 3rd in the 100 butterfly and 4th in the 200 IM. Kinsley Bean, Katie Nuotilla and Sarah Boyd also swam well for Carson.
West Rowan has come a long way over the course of its season. Their progress culminated at the County meet with Mikayla Graham’s bronze medal performance in the 50 free. Samantha Pritchard (5th in the 200 IM) and Rebekah Horning (5th in the 200 free and 6th in the 100 free) led the Cavaliers.

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