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Comets make a splash in the GNRC swimming awards

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CLAYTON — The Clayton swimming teams swept through the 3-A Greater Neuse River Conference postseason honors after what was a strong season in the pool for the Comets. 

Jesse Lower was named the conference’s Boys Swimmer of the Year after contributing to conference victories in four events, two relays and two individual marks. 

On the conference-champion girls swim team, three Clayton swimmers —  Claire Goodwin, Noelle Roberts and Lillie Martin — earned top honors as the co-Girls Swimmers of the Year. Their contributions made a difference. 

Despite a Clayton boys swimmer taking home the top honor, Cleveland outlasted the Comets to earn the conference title. West Johnston took third in the standings, followed by South Johnston, East Wake and Smithfield-Selma.

With the Clayton girls atop the rest, Cleveland finished second. West Johnston was third, followed by Smithfield-Selma, East Wake and South Johnston.

South Johnston’s Cori Walker was named Boys Coach of the Year, while Heather Markuson of West Johnston garnered Girls Coach of the Year honors. 

The rest of the all-conference performers were recognized for top times in the conference championship meet. 


A 200-yard medley relay team of Lower, Ryan Fitzhugh, Matthew Hortsmann and Connor Hickman took first in the event for Clayton. Lower, Fitzhugh, Noah Williams and Wyatt Williams also took first in the 400 freestyle relay. 

Individually, Lower blazed through the 100 butterfly and 100 breaststroke, while Fitzhugh sped through the water to capture the top time in the 50 freestyle. The endurance of Clayton’s Justin Thrasher in the 500 freestyle earned him a spot as another Comet on the all-conference team.

Cleveland’s Ryan Marslender won the 200 freestyle, while teammate Sam Holder finished ahead of the rest in the 200 IM and Alex Embler won the 100 freestyle. 

The 200 freestyle relay team of Holder, Embler, Colby Davis and Riley Dewees also captured a victory for the Rams. South Johnston’s Carter Hines earned all-conference in the 100 backstroke.

Cleveland’s Carter Thomas; Clayton’s Patrick Hamilton; Smithfield-Selma’s Nathaniel Belveau; South Johnston’s Trey Penny; West Johnston’s Griffin Brown and East Wake’s John Riddle were also named all-conference boys swimmers. 

Ian Hoy of Clayton; Thomas Luter of Cleveland; Jackson Harris of Smithfield-Selma; Carter Hines of South Johnston; Luke Markuson of West Johnston and East Wake’s Darrion Hun were named sportsmanship honorees.


The three girls swimmers of the year, Goodwin, Roberson and Martin were all over the all-conference team with all sorts of victories.

The three combined with Willow Stone to win both the 200 medley and 400 freestyle relays. 

Individually, Roberson took the top time in the 200 freestyle and 100 freestyle, while Goodwin won the 200 IM and 100 breastroke. Martin finished atop the 100 butterfly and 500 freestyle, while Stone did the same in the 100 breastroke.

The Cleveland 200 freestyle relay team of Molly Barefoot, Jamie Adams, Melissa Conner and Breanna Draper earned back points for the Rams. 

Kamryn Pottegier of West Johnston was the lone non-Clayton swimmer to take home an individual conference honor, winning the 200 IM.

Other all-conference performers were Clayton’s Sonia Hunt; Cleveland’s Alexsia King; Smithfield-Selma’s Brandy Powell; South Johnston’s Erica Stanley; East Wake’s Bella Leahy.

The sportsmanship award was given to: Lillie Martin of Clayton; Sarah Puckett of Cleveland; Smithfield-Selma’s Ashley Terrill; South Johnston’s Carlye Durham; West Johnston’s Carolina Carlson; East Wake’s Ashley Kerr.