By MIKE PERRIN For the AHSAA MONTGOMERY -- The 59th AHSAA Swimming & Diving Championships get underway Friday at Auburn University’s James E. Martin Aquatics Center with streaks on the line in both the girls’ and boys’ competitions. The girls from Westminster Christian Academy of Huntsville and boys from Huntsville High will be looking to capture their fourth straight team titles in the Class 6A/7A division while St. Paul’s Episcopal School’s boys will be on the hunt to ascend the winners’ stand for the fifth time in six years after Boaz and T.R. Miller shared the 1A/5A title in 2018. The 2018 1A/5A girls’ champion was UMS-Wright. Westminster’s 2018 crown came in the girls’ team’s first year in the large-school division. Auburn High’s girls won the championship 2013-17. “The state meet is a special experience,” Westminster Coach Roger Von Jouanne said, “as the swimmers from around the state produce times you can hardly believe. Our Westminster guys and girls have always stepped up at state. They’ve worked hard all season long with this meet in mind.” Von Jouanne , in his ninth year at Westminster, was a 12-time All-American swimmer at Southern Illinois University who set an American record in the 200 butterfly and won the U.S. Nationals in the 200 Individual Medley while in college. He finished in fourth in the Olympic Trials in 1984. He also broke the U.S. Masters’ record in the 200 IM for the 40-45 age group after an almost two-decade absence from the competitive pool. “I really never anticipated a Westminster swim team competing on the level that our girls have achieved,” he said. “In the early years, we were focused on ‘mining the treasure’ that God had placed into Westminster’s hallways. We enjoyed the pursuit each year of trying to be a top-ranked 3A school in the state. Every year, I did a little bit of research among the other 3A schools to see where we stood, and we always had either the best guys’ or girls’ team in Alabama – which we celebrated in our little circle. “In 2014, when the AHSAA divided the sectional and state competition into large and small schools, we were in legitimate contention with our boys’ team and finished second at state. Then our top boys graduated, but there began a groundswell of young girls who began to qualify for state in 2015. The next year, our girls fired each other up all season long and in 2016, glory to God, we were able to win the small-school title over the established powerhouse St. Paul’s team. The following year, our girls were hard-pressed against a loaded St. John Paul II team and had an amazing state meet to repeat as small school champions.” Westminster moved up to the 6A/7A division in 2018 and didn’t miss a beat on the way to their third straight title. Two Westminster girls – Rebekah Hamilton and Eboni McCarty – have verbally committed to swim for Auburn University and Georgia, respectively. “They are top-notch swimmers,” Von Jouanne said, “not to mention wonderful young ladies who will be a blessing in terms of their character and their worth ethic. If you’ve ever met them, you know they are the nicest people, but in the water, they are absolute sea-monsters!” Von Jouanne , whose full-time job is as a Boeing engineer, said the competition in the AHSAA has improved throughout this tenure at the Huntsville private school. “I think Alabama high school swimming has moved into a good place and is continuing to move in the right direction. My three kids swam for Bob Jones High School over a span of 13 consecutive years, and in the early years of that span there were no state meet qualifying times. “After the first wave of qualifying times, around 2005, the caliber of the state meet began to increase, and the caliber increased the qualifying times. As interest and participation increased, the next stage was warranted to divide into small school and large school divisions. That added another level of excitement and it continued to enhance participation.” “High school swimming should be the pinnacle of our sport at this stage of an athlete’s life and the AHSAA has made the necessary changes to bring that experience to our athletes.” AHSAA 59 th State Swimming & Diving Championships James E. Martin Aquatics Center, Auburn University Friday and Saturday, Dec. 6-7 Friday, Dec. 6 – Swim prelims – 5 p.m. (warm up 3:30-4:45 p.m.) Friday, Dec. 6 – Diving – 9 a.m. (warm up 8 a.m.) Saturday, Dec. 7 – Swim finals – 2 p.m. (warm up 12:45-1:45 p.m.) Admission: $10 per day. Live-Streaming: NFHS Network will live-stream the championships over its subscriber-based on-line network. Go to www.nfhsnetwork.com for more details on becoming a subscriber.