PILOT MOUNTAIN — In an alternate universe where the NCHSAA didn’t require 1A schools to compete for the state swimming championship with open-enrollment schools and 2A teams, East Surry’s girls’ swim team would have a number of individual and team state championships to its credit in the last few seasons.
As it has been, the Lady Cardinals have been among the top teams in the state’s 1A/2A ranks anyway, finishing seventh in 2016, fourth in 2017 and fifth in 2018, but as the top traditional 1A school every time. Several East Surry swimmers have been recruited by, and gone on to careers in college swimming during this time.
One of the biggest reasons for all of the Lady Cardinals’ success has been Mikki Nunn, who joined the ranks of those moving on to bigger and better things last week. Nunn was one of three East Surry student-athletes who signed last Wednesday, choosing Converse College as her destination.
“When I was little, I knew I was going to college, and I already knew I wanted to swim, not only for the experience but also because I knew it would help me financially,” said Nunn, who took up swimming at the age of six and has been a member of the North Piedmont Aquatic Club (PAC) team, coached by Jeff and Leah Tunstall, since she was seven.
At East Surry, Nunn’s teams held off strong challenges from rival Bishop McGuinness in each of her four seasons, taking the conference title each year. Nunn was a part of numerous individual and relay teams that claimed individual conference titles. She competed year-round for PAC, winning two gold medals at the 2015 Powerade State Games of North Carolina at the age of 14. Two years later, she claimed two golds, a silver and a bronze.
Nunn’s specialty, both for PAC and for East Surry, was in the breaststroke, and she says that Converse will likely have her focus on that discipline.
“She was about seven when I started coaching her,” said Leah Tunstall, who also coached Nunn for East. “Eleven years is a long time. I am so proud of her. She put in a lot of hard work and has been exceptionally dedicated for a lot of years. This is the celebration and culmination of all of that. I look forward to being able to watch her swim at the next level and fully achieve all of the dreams she has.”
Converse is a member of Conference Carolinas in the NCAA’s Division II ranks. The Valkyries’ swim team competes in a combined championship with the Bluegrass Mountain Conference and finished second overall in 2018. The quality of the program was one of the things that attracted Nunn to Converse.
“When I went there and visited, they were all very welcoming and it felt like home right away,” said Nunn, who was also considering offers from Savannah College of Art & Design and UNC-Greensboro at the time. “Converse has a good swim team and it was a good fit.”
Nunn, who will double major in studio art and art education at Converse, said she’s excited to be going to college, but also looks back fondly on her time at East Surry.
”It was been a really great experience being a co-captain this year, being able to lead the team and to have a lot of success at states and regionals,” she said.
She and her teammates are especially proud of their feats at the annual state championships in Cary, where for the last three years, East Surry has more than held its own with programs like Bishop, Raleigh Charter, Lincoln Charter, and Carrboro, a 2A public school more than twice East’s size.
“It was pretty crazy seeing us score so high against charter schools and private schools,” she said.
And now she gets to fulfill her dream of competing in college, as well.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.