02/12/07 — Eastern Wayne's Chenier swims to pair of gold medals

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Eastern Wayne's Chenier swims to pair of gold medals

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 12, 2007 2:10 PM

HUNTERSVILLE -- Mason Chenier stepped onto the starting block, took a deep breath and gazed ahead.

Ignoring the tingling in his fingers and toes, the Eastern Wayne swimmer leapt into the clear blue water when the starter's gun echoed through the Huntersville Family Fitness and Aquatic Center.

Less than 22 seconds later, Chenier touched the wall and glanced at the scoreboard. The sophomore had emerged the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3-A 50-yard freestyle champion.

But Chenier wasn't done. He added the 100-yard championship to his impressive season-long resume and earned co-Most Valuable Performer accolades with Wilson Fike's Justin Eldridge.

"I'm not nearly as surprised winning as I was about receiving the state MVP award with Justin," said Chenier. "I had no clue I'd get that. There was not even a thought in the back of my head about it. It was great to win that."

Reagan's Brett Sexton, runner-up in last week's eastern regional to Chenier, appeared to be the toughest competition during the day-long meet. But Sexton never challenged in the finals and fell behind half a body length at the 25-yard mark.

"I felt confident at that point," said Chenier, who posted a time of 21.72 seconds. "When I flipped at the 25, I pushed off the wall and really got into my groove after that. I finished pretty strong and it felt great."

Next came the 100.

Chenier and Goldsboro club coach Alex Black discussed reaching the 47-second range, and Chenier pushed himself from the starting gun. He admitted getting a little fatigued the final 10 yards, but pushed himself enough to pull off the double-gold effort.

Chenier touched the wall in 47.78 seconds, more than a second ahead of runner-up Tim Mann from Southwest Guilford.

"I felt I could pull it out," said Chenier. "I didn't think about (winning) too much. I just looked at the time and soaked it in when I realized what I had just done."

Chenier became the third state champion Warrior history. Older brother Michael, who attended Saturday's meet, captured three state titles from 1997-99. Sister Megan seized the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke championships in 2002.

Mason is just the third swimmer, male or female, to capture two state titles in the same season in Wayne County history. He's just the fourth Wayne County swimmer since 1986 to claim gold in the NCHSAA championships. Chuck Darden, who competed for Goldsboro in 1986, took 4-A titles in the 200 IM and 100 backstroke, and swam on the gold medal-winning 200 medley relay.

"That's great that I'm up there with everyone else," said Chenier. "I hope I can keep swimming well and doing great."

Chenier provided nearly two-thirds of the Warriors' 90 team points. He swam the anchor leg on the 200 medley and 400 relays, which each finished eighth overall. Joining him were fellow underclassmen Melvin Shipman, Xander Robinson and Spenser Rouse.

Robinson ended up 12th in the 500 free, while Shipman took 16th in the 100 back.

The Warriors' Bailey Upchurch had a solid meet with fourth-place effort in the 100 back and 10th-place showing in the 100 fly.

Charles B. Aycock swimmer Garrett Forrest turned in a fifth-place time of 25.86 seconds in the 50 free. Forrest, Margaret Connolly, Sarah Macut and Carrigan Chastain recorded a 10th-place time in the 200 free relay and 14th-place time in the 400 free relay.

The Golden Falcons were 19th overall with 34 points, while the Warriors were 25th with 22 points.