DENVER – They may be small in numbers, but they’re mighty in heart, team spirit and dedication. Wearing the team color of hot pink – to represent women in sports – the Lincoln Charter School women’s swim team recently won the 2023 North Carolina High School Athletic Association Swimming and Diving Championship. This is not their first state championship – they won it in 2022 as well.

A senior at Lincoln Charter, Grace Wilson also received the North Carolina Farm Bureau Insurance Sportsmanship Award. She’s been swimming since she was five years old, swam in club events and started swimming for Lincoln Charter in middle school.

“I love the team atmosphere of swimming,” she said. “Knowing all these girls have my back. I think we felt the pressure going into state this year. We didn’t want to show it, our goal was to just have fun. I think we were surprised by the regional win at first – we just wanted to qualify. It was all a blur, but amazing to do it a second time in a row.”

The current team consists of four seniors including Brooklyn DeCann who took up swimming as a two-year-old. She also swam for club teams and started swimming for Lincoln Charter in middle school. 

“It’s been great mentoring the new girls and watching them fall in love with the sport of swimming,” she said. “I love sharing my love of the sport.”

Jade Chamblee and Gianna D’Amato, both seniors, started swimming young as well. 

Relatively new to swimming, Olivia Comesky was brought into the sport by the current seniors.

“After they won states last year, I wanted to be a part of the team,” she said. 

Every day brings a new challenge, and a new opportunity, Head Coach Dillon Ross added. 

“We practice in Huntersville, so we’re there early in the morning and sometimes late at night, whenever we can get lane space and a diving board,” he said.

Lincoln Charter’s swim/dive team has been in existence for some time now. They’re now pulling a lot from the greater Charlotte area and the bulk of the team attends the Denver campus. Winning the state championships twice is relatively rare, according to Head Dive Coach Christy Hutchinson. While it’s a team effort, it really isn’t a team sport. Many of the girls don’t come together until they swim at an event.

“Swimming at states is a tad bit different than football or basketball,” she said. “You’re not playing one team head-to-head. You have to qualify athletes in each individual event and each individual event has minimum qualification standards. Many times, large teams have an advantage because there’s a limited number of events an individual swimmer or diver can be entered in. If you have multiple athletes who can meet those qualification standards in multiple events, you have a lot of flexibility.”

On Lincoln Charter’s state qualifying team, they had a roster of 12 girls. Last year, for the last state championship, which was by a much smaller margin than this year, there were fewer girls. 

“In the 1A/2A division, you can have a smaller group as long as you have top A qualifiers,” Ross said. “All of your relays have to qualify and be in the top four or five. The most essential part is the dive program – to have points on the board before you even start the swimming competition puts you in a good space to launch yourself forward. You still have to swim a good meet – once at regionals, again at preliminaries in the morning and come back in the finals and swim the same time. It makes for a long weekend.”

Swimming and diving are mental games, Hutchinson added.

“Anything can happen to one person, you can slip up on a dive just a little bit, your entry is not perfect, you don’t touch the wall, anything can happen,” she said. “Going into the state meet with a lead is the girls believing that they can do it. I think that one of the reasons our program is strong is – it’s almost like we’re running two separate programs (dive and swim) and we’re divorced all season long, then we get married at states. We practice at different times, different pools and we honestly never really see each other until the states. Trying to build that team camaraderie is really critical. That doesn’t exist everywhere and that’s what makes it a little bit special. Being a strong swimmer or driver takes incredible commitment. We keep saying that the key to winning states is no drama. We’ve had more talented teams in the past that haven’t been able to clinch it.”

They also need grit. 

“They have to be in it from the get-go and have enough grit and determination so that when your entire body is sore and you’re ready to give in, to know that it’s not just you touching the wall or the clock that matters, it’s making sure that you’re giving more than your best for the entire team,” Ross said.

To stay competitive, Wilson, who is waiting on news on potential swim scholarships, currently swims an average of two hours each day, six days a week. Most of her swim time is in the morning before school.

“The pool is cold,” Bella Lohri said. “It really wakes you up. Sometimes my mom had to wake me up, but it was usually on me. You can’t swim in a hot pool. We come to school with our hair wet and if it’s freezing, your hair freezes.”

The younger members of the team are now working hard now to enlist more members to join the team. 

“We show them videos of years in the past,” Norah Chamblee said. “Grace likes to make YouTube videos. We show them how fun it can be and try to encourage them to try.”

Swimming is an individual sport, but in the end, you’re swimming for the team, Kaden Becker added. 

“You have to be there for them,” she said. “I’ve gone to the seniors multiple times before an event and they’ve got my back.”

State Team Roster: 

Jade Chamblee

Gianna D’Amato

Brooklyn DeCann 

Grace Wilson

Kaden Becker 

Norah Chamblee

Olivia Comesky 

Bella Lohri

Brooke Male 

Addison Nardone

Avery Nardone 

Aubrey Landrum


Head Coach Dillon Ross 

Head Dive Coach Christy Hutchinson 

Assistant Coaches Kim DeCann and Matt Malta

Top finishes:

Women 200 Medley Relay 4th place - Jade Chamblee, Brooklyn DeCann, Norah Chamblee, Olivia Comesky

Women 200 Free 3rd place and 8th place - Grace Wilson & Brooklyn DeCann

Women 200 IM 3rd place and 7th place - Norah Chamblee and Olivia Comesky

Women 100 Butterfly 6th place - Norah Chamblee

Women 100 Free 7th place - Jade Chamblee

Women 500 Free 2nd place and 6th place - Grace Wilson & Brooklyn DeCann

Women 200 Free Relay 3rd place - Grace Wilson, Olivia Comesky, Gianna D’Amato, Norah Chamblee

Women 100 Breaststroke 9th place - Olivia Comesky 

Women 400 Free Relay 5th place - Jade Chamblee, Brooklyn DeCann, Grace Wilson, Gianna D’Amato

HS Dive team was led by Addison Nardone - 5th; Avery Nardone - 9th; Brooke Male -12th


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