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Estep picking up speed as her swimming career improves


Caroline Estep, a junior at Hoggard, was named Player of the Year in girls swimming.


As a young kid, Caroline Estep admits she really wasn't that good of a swimmer.

Sibling rivalry changed that in a hurry.

"I wasn't that good as a little kid, I was just very enthusiastic," Estep said. "My older sisters actually got moved up to the faster group, and I just wanted to be with them. I don't know, I just tried harder, and something clicked. I just took off."

Now a junior at Hoggard High School, Estep hasn't looked back since, becoming one of the most successful swimmers in the program's history, with one year still to come.

On her way to becoming the StarNews All-Area girls swimmer of the year, Estep won the 50- and 100-yard freestyles at the Mideastern Conference championship, helping Hoggard win its 13th consecutive conference title.

Estep also had a stong outing at the Class 4A state meet, finishing second in the 100 freestyle and fifth in the 50 freestyle, while anchoring a pair of top-six relays.

Despite her growing list of accomplishments, she struggled early in her career with the pressure that came with swimming at Hoggard.

"The goal for Hoggard is to win, so there was a lot of pressure coming in as a freshman," Estep said. "Especially after losing some seniors, but we all just worked as a team. The beginning is always bumpy and awkward, but we really pulled together and worked hard to accomplish our goals."

Three years later, Estep still feels the pressure to perform, but also uses that pressure as motivation.

"There's a lot of both," Estep said. "There's still definitely a lot of pressure, going to regionals and states because there are so many good swimmers. You never know what's going to happen."

Looking forward to her senior year, Estep hopes all her success will result in a chance to swim at the college level, but she is also still focused keeping Hoggard at the top.

"I've been looking at a lot of colleges to swim, and hopefull I can get a scholarship," Estep said. "I've looked at NC State, ECU, Georgetown and South Carolina. State is probably my first choice, But our goal as a team is to stay on top and to win."

All-Area girls swimming

Caroline Estep, Jr., Hoggard (POY): Anchored Hoggard's 200 medley and 200 freestyle relay teams to top-six Class 4A state finishes, finished 2nd in state 100 freestyle and fifth in 50 freestyle. Led Vikings to their 13th straight conference title.

Ally Black, Sr., Topsail: All-East Central Conference in 200 IM, 11th in Class 1A/2A state meet in 200 freestyle and 12th in 100 butterfly.

Justine Bledsoe, Sr., Hoggard: First-team All-Mideastern in 100 breaststroke and swam on Hoggard's 200 medley and 200 freestyle relays.

Helen Duffy, Fr., New Hanover: State finals qualifier in 100 breaststroke, finishing 7th in 4A East regional. First-team All-Mideastern in 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle

Allison Emma, Sr., Topsail: Led Pirates to an East Central Conference Championship by winning the 100 freestyle and 200 freestyle and anchored 400 freestyle relay to 5th place at state meet.

Abbey Narayan, So., Hoggard: Regional qualifier in 50 and 100 freestyle, member of Hoggard's 200 freestyle and 200 medley relays.

Honorable Mention

Ashley: Sydney Westra. New Hanover: Waverly Leonard Hoggard: Stepanie Smith, Carter Leigh-High.

All-Conference

Mideastern Conference

Player of the Year: Carolina Estep, Hoggard. Coaches of the Year: Jana Clancey, New Hanover & Tammy Pruden, Hoggard. Team Sportsmanship Award: Ashley

First Team–200 Medley Relay: Stephanie Smith, Justine Bledsoe, Abbey Narayan, Caroline Estep - Hoggard. 200 Freestyle - Helen Duffy, New Hanover. 200 IM - Emmie Barnhill, Rose. 50 Freestyle - Caroline Estep, Hoggard. 100 Butterfly - Emmie Barnhill, Rose. 100 Freestyle - Caroline Estep, Hoggard. 500 Freestyle - Helen Duffy, New Hanover. 200 Freestyle Relay: Justine Bledsoe, Abbey Narayan, Stephanie Smith, Caroline Estep - Hoggard. 100 Backstroke - Stephanie Smith, Hoggard. 100 Breaststroke - Justine Bledsoe, Hoggard. 400 Freestyle Relay: Brittany Parker, Cary Pou, Emmie Barnhill, Emily Sawyer - Rose.

Second Team–200 Medley Relay: Waverly Leonard, Naz Aktas, Abby McFarland, Helen Duffy - New Hanover. 200 Freestyle -Stephanie Smith, Hoggard. 200 Individual Medley - Katy Wilson, New Bern. 50 Freestyle - Cary Pou, Rose. 200 Freestyle Relay: Abby McFarland, Waverly Leonard, Sophie Kot, Helen Duffy - New Hanover. 100 Backstroke - Cary Pou, Rose. 100 Breaststroke - Sydney Westra, Ashley. 400 Freestyle Relay: Tessa Minnich, Clara Bay, Carter-Leigh High, Meghan Hannum - Hoggard.

East Central Conference

Coach of the Year: Shannon Crate (Topsail).

200 Freestyle - Allison Emma (Topsail). 200 IM - Ally Black (Topsail). 50 Freestyle - Baiotoo Maddison (Swansboro). 100 Butterfly - Nikki Myrka (Topsail). 100 Freestyle - Allison Emma (Topsail). 500 Freestyle - Baiotoo Maddison (Swansboro). 100 Backstroke - Bethany Hale (Topsail). 100 Breaststroke - Gabbie Black (Topsail). 200 Medley Relay - Bethany Hale, Hailey James, Mikki Myrka, and Ally Black (Topsail).

Waccamaw Conference

First Team–South Brunswick: Rachel Van Noordt, Morgan Gilbert. West Brunswick–Meg Fletcher.

Second Team–South Brunswick: Savanna Michaux, Lauren Johnson. West Brunswick: Abby Bollinger, Abby Long.