CLOVER — Joan Epping has devoted time and effort into expanding the Clover High School swim team’s horizons.
This year, the CHS team is reaping the benefits.
“We have the best swim team Clover has ever had,” said Epping. “It is because we have more year-round swimmers than ever.”
Epping said five year-round swimmers, two boys and three girls, have helped push the program to individual state title-contending status.
“Our premier male swimmer is senior Garrett Hills,” said Epping. “He is the premier male high school swimmer in the state. Garrett has qualified to swim in the state meet in every event the meet offers, eight categories altogether.”
Hills has qualified first in four of the events – 50 free, 100 free, 200 free and 100 fly. He most likely will compete in the 50 free and 100 free in the Saturday state meet at the USC natatorium in Columbia.
Epping said Hills is being recruited by top Division 1 schools.
Hills began competitive swimming his freshman year at CHS.
“I finished 12th in the state in the 100 fly my first year of competitive swimming,” Hill said. “My sophomore year, I finished seventh in the 100 fly and 12th in the 50 free.
Last year, I placed first in the 100 fly and fifth in the 100 free.”
While Hills is dedicated to the sport, he said some of his swimming success comes natural.
“I had thought about playing soccer in high school,” he recalls. “I decided to give swimming a try and fell in love with the sport.”
Hills said his parents have been supportive along the way.
“They drove me to practice before I started driving,” he said. “They’ve always been there for me.”
Epping said the team’s premier female swimmer is Morgan Rulevich, who qualified first in state competition in two events, the 100 free and 100 breast.
The self-driven sophomore swimmer has followed in the footsteps of her mother, Tina Rulevich, a former state champion in the two events.
“She goes to every meet and has been a great influence for me,” said Morgan. “She greets me with a hug when I do well. I love it.”
Qualifiers for Saturday’s state meet include:
• Male supporting cast swimmers: Braxton Shuler, 50 free, 100 free, 200 free, 100 fly; Kenny Jeffrey, 100 BK; John Slavens, 200 IM, 100 breast, 100 free; Charles Graham, 100 breast.
• Female support cast qualifiers: Anna Pettus, 100 breast, 100 fly, 200 IM; Kelcey Hines, 50 free, 200 free, 100 BK, 100 FR. Abby Hines still hopes to qualify in 50 or 100 free.
• Seedings for male relays: 200 free relay, third; 200 medley relay, third; 400 free relay, 12th.
• Female relays: 200 free relay, eighth; 200 medley relay, 16th; 400 free relay, 20th.