Highlands Hurricanes swim team competes at Banjo Bear Invitational

Recently, members of the Highlands Hurricanes swim team competed in the first annual Banjo Bear Invitational held at Buncombe County Schools Aquatic Center. Approx. 400 swimmers from 10 teams attended this two-day meet.

Justin Powell competes at the Banjo Bear Invititational.

Coach Jordan Kenter said that overall the Hurricanes performed well.

“We look at this meet from an individual perspective since it wasn’t scored as a team meet, and virtually all of our swimmers had at least one best time, several had multiple best times, and several dropped a ton of time,” said Kenter. “I think it was very successful overall. The level of competition at this meet was very good, and with the meet being structured by only two age groups (12 and under and 13 and over) it allowed for greater competition in each and every race.”

Kenter said the Hurricanes had several great swims during this two-day meet.

“Mark Gross had an excellent meet and stood out to me,” he said.  “Also, Blake [Kenter] legally completed his first ever 100-yard IM, 50-yard breaststroke, and 200-yard freestyle. Those are just two examples that come to mind, but there were a bunch of great swims from everyone who participated.”

From left Jackie Powell and Layla Babac take a breather from the competition.

Kenter added that being part of this Plateau-based team has been rewarding.

“HHST has been so rewarding for me personally and for our family as a whole,” said Kenter. “Personally, I love coaching, and I love working with these kids and helping them to improve and have fun doing it. As a family, the pool deck is our home away from home, and we really love it. Most of all, I get enjoyment from watching my kids and the kids I coach have fun in the water, learn how to be a part of a team, and learn how to push themselves to improve. With the team being all ages from 4 up to 18, our younger swimmers have some great role models to look up to, which is very comforting as a parent.”


Hurricanes Coach Steve Hott guides the team at the Banjo Bear Invitational.

HHST Head Coach Steve Hott said the Hurricanes came out and swam their best.

“Overall, HHST did very well at the Banjo Bear Invitational,” said Hott. “We had many personal records (PRs) set. It was the largest meet some of our swimmers had ever been to, which can be intimidating. But between the coaching staff and the more experienced swimmers, I think those swimmers’ inexperience was mitigated. That was one of the purposes of us going to a relatively large two-day meet, to give experience to some of the newer swimmers.”

Peyton Kaylor swims the freestyle in Buncomb County.

Hott made note of numerous Hurricane achievements during the two-day meet.  Chase Kenter won 9 events, Conner Hughes and Aniah McKim each scored two 1sts one 2nd and two 3rd-place finishes.  Vivian Kennedy, Blake Kenter, Justin Powell and Timmy McDowell all had PR´s in the 100-yard freestyle with marked drops in time.  Kennedy dropped 6 seconds, Kenter dropped 12 seconds, Powell dropped 13 seconds, and McDowell dropped 7 seconds.  Peyton Kaylor dropped 15 seconds off of his PR in the 100-yard breaststroke.  Elias McKim finished 2nd in the 500-yard freestyle.  Zander Coward, a relatively new swimmer, swam several difficult events for his first time in a meet.  Coach Hott said Coward did well in all of them.  The boys 200-yard free relay and 200-yard medley relay of Conner Hughes, Aniah McKim, Mark Gross and Chase Kenter bested the rest of the field and won with times of 2:06.77 and 2:27.88 respectively.

“In addition to everyone doing well,” said Hott. “Special kudos should be given to Chase Kenter and Conner Hughes who dropped 17 and 13 seconds respectively in the 200-yard Butterfly (perhaps the most difficult event in age group swimming). Timmy McDowell perhaps had the best meet of all of the Hurricanes. He also dropped 10 seconds off of his career best 50-yard breaststroke, 18 seconds off of his 100-yard backstroke, and 8 seconds off of his 50-yard butterfly.”

Highlands Vivian Kennedy cranks out the butterfly at the Banjo Bear INvitational.

HHST swimmers will likely compete at Clemson in January, North Carolina State Championships in February (Chase Kenter will participate), Tarheel States in March, and a home meet in April to wrap up the winter season.

The Hurricanes hosted the Highlands Fall Invitational on Nov. 16, stay tuned to Plateau Daily News for the results of that meet.

Pictured at the top of the article is Jelehna McKim.

Article and photos by Kristy McCall

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