All-Area: Clean start: Nash Central's Norris collects first state title in first season

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Nash Central's Lance Norris swam to a state championship in the 200-yard freestyle, and added a second-place finish in the 500 freestyle this past season as a freshman. Now, the Telegram's boys' swimmer of the year is eyeing an important summer where he will kick up his training to chase down an Olympic Trials cut.


Sports Writer

Friday, June 7, 2019

Taped to a wall inside the Rocky Mount YMCA’s aquatic center is a sheet of paper that doesn’t mean much people who spend most of their time on land.

Lance Norris isn’t one of those people. That piece of paper displays the U.S. swimming 2020 Olympic Trials time standards, and the young swimmer has taken notice. 

“If I can get a race where everything is perfect, than we can hit trials,” Norris said. “But it’s really hard.”

Norris, the Nash Central swimmer who recently finished his freshman high school season, is eyeing an Olympic Trials cut in a few races. Currently, his best chance is in the 200-meter backstroke, where just 2.62 seconds separates him from the qualifying time.

The Telegram’s 2018-19 boys’ swimmer of the year had been dominating the club circuit over the past couple years at high-profile meets. He posted the top time in the nation among fellow 14 year olds in the 1,000 meters, and recently found success in the backstroke events.

That success continued into his first high school season where Norris immediately contended with the state’s finest swimmers at the 1A/2A state championship meet. He won a state title in the 200-yard freestyle, and placed second in the 500 freestyle. (His second-place finish was the first time he had lost a race all year.)

“There were some races that were pretty close this year, but I was able to hang on,” Norris said. “I thought I would be challenged in the 1A/2A regionals, but I ended up not losing a race out here until states. There were really fast people at states. They pushed me a lot.”

Norris swam a 1:41.55 in the 200, which was good enough for a 1.46-second separation from the second-place finisher. He secured the top time in the prelims, then dropped nearly a full second in the finals to win.

In the 500, Norris swam a 4:32.23 to finish second. The winner, senior Ross Dant, shattered the state record in the event by nearly two seconds with a time of 4:18.70. Dant will swim at N.C. State this coming season, leaving the door open for Norris to challenge for 1A/2A titles over the next three years.

In a recent interview, Norris talks about open water swimming, the longest break he’s taken from the sport, and how the 200 backstroke became the distance swimmer’s best chance at a trial cut as part of the Telegram’s All-Area series.

You swam with club teams most of your life, and just recently finished your first high school season. What are your thoughts on the high school season?

It was good. It was just a lot different. It’s actually a lot more fun to me.

What part is the most fun?

The state meet had an atmosphere like nothing else which was cool. And probably the relays. It would have been great to have a relay at states, and I think we can get it next year. Probably the medley relay is our best chance. The team is getting better and better, and we have one high schooler who did backstroke for us, he’s starting to swim club now. If he keeps it up, it’ll be enough to get us there.

Most of your success has come as a distance freestyler in events like the 1,000 and the mile, so how did the backstroke become your best shot at an Olympic Trials cut?

I always thought it would be the mile. I didn’t really train back, and then one meet I did the top time in the country for my age group in the 200 back and I really didn’t know how that happened. I started doing backstroke more, and now it’s my go-to when I do the IM.

What’s the longest break you have taken from swimming?

We had senior champs and (YMCA nationals) after high school season, and I kind of burned out a little after that. So the longest break was about a week off. I think I needed to take a step back and refocus.

What’s your favorite thing to eat after swimming?

You can’t go wrong with Bojangles’. I get the supreme dinner. I’ve been trying to work on my diet, trying to change it, but right now I'm trying to eat as much junk as possible.

Do you have a favorite movie?

There’s so many. Definitely comedy, though. Especially some old ones like Talladega Nights. That’s the one. Basically anything with Will Ferrell is pretty good.

You’re doing some open water swimming now, too, right?

Yeah, I got invited to go to Southern Zones in Florida for an open water 10K. I’ve done it two or three times as a kid, and I didn't really know what the tactics were like for drafting and stuff. The most recent one was four turns and I led like 3.75 of the race and I thought I had it in the bag, then five people came out of nowhere and I got sixth.

So next time I have to hang with the pack and draft because they basically cruised past me at the end. The more you do open water the more experience you get so that’s why I’m doing this.

How often do you wear your state championship ring?

Not often. I got it during our Nash Central awards banquet in May. I don't wear it around. I don’t really like to show it around and brag about it, but it’s nice to have.

First team

Lance Norris, Nash Central

Brandon Miller, Rocky Mount Academy

Tanner Jernigan, Rocky Mount Academy

Charlie Miller, Rocky Mount Academy

Stephen Bandy, Faith Christian

Jack Lancaster, Tarboro

Austin Lord, Rocky Mount High

Honorable mention

Albert Lytton, Nash Central

Ryan Agan, Nash Central

Sam Phillips, Rocky Mount High

JT Tedford, Rocky Mount High

Quintin Mangano, Rocky Mount High

Alex Terry, Southern Nash

Matt Wright, Northern Nash

Chance Savage, Northern Nash

Gabe Winham, Rocky Mount Academy

Jack Boucher, Rocky Mount Academy

Cameron Morrison, Faith Christian

Thomas Wilson, Faith Christian