Owen swim teams win conference championships

Karrigan Monk
Black Mountain News
Owen High School's swim team are the Western Highlands Conference champions for both boys and girls.

Owen High School has won yet another set of conference championships, this time with the boys and girls swim teams.

The teams emerged victorious Jan. 20 at a home meet against Avery County, Draughn, Madison and Mountain Heritage.

For the first time this season, all 20 athletes on the team were able to compete, according to coach Beth Dalton Rathbone. She said all season she has had at least one swimmer out each meet, usually due to injury.

“Everybody showed up,” Dalton Rathbone said. “Everybody was in good spirits. I even had a couple sick, but at the end of the day they showed up for their team and morale was good. Camaraderie was good. Sportsmanship was good.”

She said she has been working with most of the team since they were kids on her youth team, and she enjoys watching the athletes grow and succeed.

“It’s huge to watch them get to this level and set some of their own personal goals,” Dalton Rathbone said. “I think that’s one of the biggest things this season and really letting these kids compete within themselves while we compete as a team.”

Dalton Rathbone said because the athletes are such strong swimmers, they are even able to break some school records.

Earlier this month, sophomore Grace Vale set a school record in the 100 butterfly race with a time of 1:14.6.

Grace Vale set an Owen High School record in the 100 butterfly.

Vale said she found out earlier in the season she was close to beating the record and had been working toward that goal of having the fastest time in school history.

She said when she emerged from the water after the race she thought she had failed to meet her goal because she was looking at a different swimmers time.

“My dad’s yelling at me about something from the crowd and I couldn’t really understand because I was on the other side of the pool, but I looked back up and I saw that I had finally got it,” Vale said. “I just kind of had a ton of thoughts going through my head whenever it was happening and I finally found out.”

Vale said now that she’s achieved that goal, she wants to work on doing her best and not pleasing others.

“Now that I got that out of the way, I feel like now it’s more of just me versus myself,” Vale said. “It feels good to me.”

Both Dalton Rathbone and Vale said they are looking forward to the regional meet. All 20 swimmers advanced and will be competing.

“I feel like it’s more of a family than a sports team,” Vale said. “Everybody’s just supporting one another. There’s not a whole lot of drama on the team and I just love being there.”