High school swimming: East’s Cameron Ritchie made his mark
Published 12:01 am Thursday, March 9, 2023
By Mike London
GRANITE QUARRY — Sibling rivalry is a very real thing, but this was one of those wonderful twin moments.
East Rowan’s Cameron Ritchie and Carson Ritchie went 1-2 in the 50 freestyle in January’s Rowan County Championships held at Hurley YMCA.
That back-to-back bonanza meant 29 huge points (16 plus 13) for the Mustangs, who were on their way to claiming their first team title of this century.
East’s boys hadn’t been kings of the county in the water since 1999.
“When you’re a twin and you’re always competing with your twin in the same sports, you do push each other to get better, to be the best that you possibly can be,” Cameron said. “To finish 1-2 in an event in the county and to help our team win the championship for the first time in 24 years, that’s always going to be a favorite memory.”
It was a season of making memories for the Ritchies, who were half of East’s 200 free relay and 400 free relay teams that took first places in the Rowan County Championships.
Cameron, who also was a runaway county individual champion in the 100 butterfly, is the Post’s Rowan County Male Swimmer of the Year.
The senior was East’s team MVP and he was able to extend his success beyond the county meet.
He continued to shine in the South Piedmont Conference Championships and the 3A West Regional, He scored as an individual and with his relay teammates at the 3A State Championships.
Some of the inspiration for Cameron’s swimming career came from watching his older brother, Corbin, who also swam for the Mustangs.
Cameron started to make a impact for the Mustangs as a sophomore.
As a junior, he had a second place in the county championships in the 50 free and qualified for regional competition, but that’s where his season ended.
He was determined to take the next step as a senior.
“Cameron is one of the most determined kids I’ve had the privilege to coach,” East coach Amanda Trexler said. “He came into this season with the mindset that this time he was going to states. He worked so hard to accomplish that goal. Even after he had great success in the county meet, he kept pushing. Every day at practice, he pushed to better his stroke, he worked on his breathing techniques, he worked to get his times down.”
What Cameron accomplished this season is remarkable as he isn’t a club swimmer. He swims only during the season.
The Ritchies compete in so many sports for the Mustangs — track and field, cross country and football — that there’s no time for swimming except in the winter.
“What that means is I really have to push hard at the beginning of a swim season to get into swimming shape,” Cameron explained. “But I got in shape quickly this year and was able to start getting the kind of times I wanted. I was very serious about it. After getting to regionals last year, I wanted states. The coaches gave us very intense practices, which helped, and they gave me a positive mindset.”
The county meet — the Ritchies teamed with Isaac Cawley, Josh Gardner, Nick Cioci and Cole Humphreys to lead that surprising victory — proved to be a springboard to more medals and additional accolades.
The South Piedmont Conference is a monster swim league, with Lake Norman Charter and Northwest Cabarrus among the very best teams in 3A.
“Our conference is an amazing swim conference,” Cameron said. “It was tough, but competing against top guys helped me improve my times.”
Cameron more than held his own and was the top Rowan County performer in the SPC Championships. He was second in the 100 butterfly and third in the 50 free. Both Ritchies swam on the 200 free relay team that took third place.
At the 3A West Regional held at the Mecklenburg Aquatic Center in early February, East finished 13th and Cameron turned in another sharp performance. He had personal bests in the 50 free (23.10 seconds for fifth place) and the 100 butterfly (57.88 for ninth). The most satisfying swims of all were East taking fifth in the 200 free relay and sixth in the 400 free relay. That meant not only would Cameron be heading to the state meet, so would some of his teammates.
At the 3A State Championships, Cameron scored 3 points for 14th place in the 50 free.
“Qualifying for the state in my two individual events was great, and it was a proud team moment when we got first in our heat to place ninth in the state in the 200 free relay,” Cameron said.
The anchor man on the relay, Cameron was able to bring a memorable season for the Mustangs to a smiling conclusion.
The first championship season in a long time.
“I’ve had a chance to watch Cameron grow for four years,” Trexler said. “Watching Cameron and his brother swim with each other and push each other has been very special for me and it has been exciting. I think Cameron saw that when he dedicates himself to something the way he did to swimming this season, he can accomplish any goal.”
The Ritchies have moved on now to outdoor track and field.
In East Rowan’s first meet on Monday, Cameron won the 300 hurdles, while his brother was third in the 400 meters.
They both ran in the 200 meters. Cameron finished second, while Carson took fifth.
They’ll continue to compete and push each other.
Cameron is the first to acknowledge that without the help of a lot of people, his Swimmer of the Year season wouldn’t have happened.
“My coaches, my teammates, my parents and my family,” Cameron said. “They’re all part of it. The support was there whenever I needed it.”
All-Rowan County boys swim team
The All-Rowan County team is determined by the Rowan County Championships (first in a relay event, first or second in an individual event)
Shaun Pell — 200 medley relay, 100 backstroke
Camden Miller — 200 medley relay, 100 breaststroke, 200 free
Cohen Joyner — 200 medley relay, 200 IM, 100 butterfly
Daniel Epley — 200 medley relay, 500 free
Mashal Faw — 100 free
Brooks Bumgarner — 100 breaststroke
Josh Gardner — 200 free relay, 400 free relay, 200 IM
Cameron Ritchie — 200 free relay, 400 free relay, 50 free, 100 butterfly
Carson Ritchie — 200 free relay, 400 free relay, 50 free
Isaac Cawley — 200 free relay, 400 free relay, 100 free, 100 backstroke
Nick Cioci — 500 free
Cole Humphreys — 200 free
Coach of the Year — Amanda Trexler, East