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Hammerheads have state champ
Margaret Turner, 13, holds her state title medal when she won the 50-yard butterfly stroke last weekend at the state meet in Tifton. - photo by Photo provided.
It took nearly a decade, but the Liberty County Recreation Department's swim team, the Hammerheads, had one of its own take the title at the state swim meet in Tifton last weekend.
Margaret Turner, 13, took the top spot of the podium, placing first in the 50-yard butterfly with a Georgia Recreation and Park Association official time of 31:40. It's the first state title in swimming for the LCRD since it formed the swim team.
22 Hammerheads participated at state with 16 swimmers medalling.
According to head coach Susan Baker even those who did not medal impressed her.
"Although we had a few that did not medal, they placed well," she said. "Everyone looked in top form. They looked excellent."
Baker said the performance of her swimmers earned the LCRD Hammerheads a 10th place team finish for the year.
"I was hysterical, ecstatic, you name it I went through the emotion," Baker said. "Besides being a parent of one of the swimmers at that moment I felt like I was a parent of all 22. I was sitting there biting my nails, saying prayers and just hoping, and urging them on. I can't believe how wonderful these kids performed."
Baker said it was the toughest competition her swimmers saw this season.
"At the beginning of the season I always warn the kids that you will never see the highest level of competition until you go to state," she said. "At state the best come out of the woodwork.
For Turner it was a journey she won't soon forget.
"I broke my chin two days before the competition and I had to swim through the pain," she said about her first place win. "I cried when I got out of the pool."
"She was fine during preliminaries but she was in a lot of pain when she swam the finals," Baker said. "She came out of the pool crying and we didn't know if they were tears of joy for being first or tears of pain. Later she said it was pain first and then it hit her that she won. It was a rough swim for her and it's amazing she placed in first."
"It feels really good. I'm proud of myself but it was not just me that helped bring home a title it was the whole team because everyone contributed," Turner said. "My coach and my mom kept telling me that I was really good but I didn't believe until I saw it."
Baker mentioned she was proud of the 13-14 year old boys who placed third in both the medley and free style, Gatlin Woods who placed third in breast stroke and Turner who also placed third in the intermediate medley in addition to her first place win at the butterfly.
Baker started coaching in Liberty County for the YMCA swim team and said members of the LCRD group were grouped together with the YMCA group. Around four years ago the LCRD group starting using the pool at Troop Park and the Hammerheads were born. Baker has coached most of the kids since they started nine years.
"If we get the same determination out of our swimmers next year as we did this year I can't wait to see what happens," she said. "My goal for next year is to have 90 percent of the swimmers medal and have over 22 swimmers at state."  
Turner plans to return and already set her goal for next season.
"I hope to better my swim time by getting it down to 27:93," she said.
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