Lance Norris is a state champion again.
The Nash Central junior on Saturday won the 500-yard freestyle event at the NCHSAA 1A/2A state swimming meet. It is his second state championship after winning the 200 freestyle in 2019.
Norris touched the wall in a personal-best 4:20.83 in the distance freestyle event, which is only about two seconds off the state record (4:18.70) set in 2019 by current N.C. State swimmer Ross Dant.
“Next year,” Norris said, “I want to challenge the state record (in the 500).”
Norris was a freshman during that 2019 season and placed second to the then-senior Dant in the event. With Dant graduated the following year, the Bulldogs swimmer was poised to claim the 500 title his sophomore year but an illness prevented Norris from competing at the state meet.
So Saturday’s return to the state’s biggest stage evoked strong feelings.
“It was really good to swim high school again,” Norris said. “It’s still a little different with no spectators, but I had a really good time. The people here make it just really fun. It was different this year too because we had some relays that made it so that was really exciting.”
Norris earned a second-place finish in the 100 backstroke (48.75 seconds) in what was also a best career time. He was also part of two relays. (His spot was filled last season after helping the Bulldogs place a pair of boys’ relay teams.)
The Bulldogs finished in the points in the 200 medley relay with an eighth-place finish. The 400 freestyle relay finished 10th.
For Norris, the success in the pool is a sign that he is beginning to figure it all out. He said he is learning how to best turn his body into an effective swimming machine.
Whether that means eating pasta for dinner every other day two weeks out from a championship meet, calculating — oftentimes down to a tenth of a second — when he will touch a wall, or keeping his mind focused throughout his distance races.
“In the 500 I maintained my focus and didn’t let those thought bubbles come around,” Norris said. “I focused on nailing every wall and swimming my race.
“The way I’m feeling for a warmup I kind of know where I’m going to be. And that goes for practice as well. I can tell just by how much effort I’m putting in to know almost exactly what my time is going to be. It’s really interesting because it’s been this season in specific that I’ve been able to figure that out.”
Norris is unlocking new gears in swimming. And all of this comes during an Olympic year, and he has his sights set on the Olympic Trials meet held in June.
Southern Nash swimmer Alex Terry finished 11th in the 50-yard freestyle at the Class 3A state swim meet.
Terry touched the wall in 23.09 seconds. At the 3A East regional meet, Terry reset his own school record when he swam to a third-place finish in 23.07, which was also good enough to qualify for the state meet.