Just because he wasn’t highly seeded in his events didn’t mean that Conor Cudahy wasn’t capable of top-four finishes in a major swim meet.
Cudahy, a 14-year-old swimmer from the Herndon Aquatic Club, arguably had the most impressive long-distance swim at this weekend’s Tom Dolan Invitational Meet at George Mason University. Seeded 12th in the 13-14 1,000 yard freestyle at a 10:41.60, Cudahy dropped close to a minute to win the event with a time of 9 minutes 49.75 seconds.
“Going into the meet on Thursday, I didn’t know what to expect in the 1,000,” Cudahy said. “I really thought I had a good race, and I was really happy about it.”
Cudahy joined a near-1,600 swimmers at the Tom Dolan Invitational, a Potomac Valley and Curl Burke Swim Club-sponsored event.
“The kids enjoy coming here,” meet director Brian Pawlowicz said. “There’s an air of excitement for the kids—this is the meet they want to get to in December.”
Cudahy couldn’t agree more.
“This is one of the biggest meets of my life,” he said. “I tried to taper as much as I could and got a good rest before.”
Out of Cudahy’s seven races, he finished five of them in the top four.
Herndon Aquatic Club head coach Bruce Andersen said that Cudahy’s primary events are still to be determined.
“He’s still trying to figure out what kind of swimmer he is,” Andersen said. “He likes sprints and he has just recently started to do very well in the distance events. Right now, he’s putting it all together and swimming very fast.”
Andersen discussed ways that Cudahy can continue to improve.
“He’s just looking to fix a couple of things—little bit on his turns and his breakouts, and pick up whatever he can there. We’re looking now at Junior Nationals cuts, so that’s probably the next step in the process.”
Former Olympian Kate Ziegler, the 21-year-old Olympic swimmer and former world champion for The FISH finished the meet with first place finishes in the 200, 500 and 1,000 yard freestyle — not a surprise for the distance specialist. In the 500, Ziegler defeated second-place finisher Allison Titley (NOVA of Virginia Aquatics) by almost ten seconds.
In the 1000 freestyle, Ziegler’s cap fell off in-race, and she finished at a 9:44.47. After retrieving the cap following her finish, she was greeted with applause from the crowd.
Janet Hu, a 13-year-old swimmer for the Curl-Burke Swim Club, also had impressive finishes. Hu, seeded first, won four events—the 13-14 100 butterfly, the 13-14 50 freestyle, open 100 backstroke and the 13-14 200 yard back.
Poseidon Swimming’s Samuel Rairden also delivered in his races. Four out of his six individual races were top-five finishes, including first-place finishes in the 100-yard butterfly and the 100 yard backstroke.
Perhaps his most surprising finish was in the 50-yard freestyle, where he placed eighth in preliminaries and finished fifth in finals. He came in seeded 29th in the event.
Jack Conger, Rockville-Montgomery’s star 15-year-old swimmer, defied his low seeds to post high finals results. Seeded 21st in the 50 yard freestyle and 20th in the 500 yard freestyle, Conger finished fourth and third in each of the events, respectively. He added two second place finishes in the 1000 yard freestyle and the 400 yard IM.
Twelve-year-old Emily Zhang (Rockville-Montgomery Swim Club) found success as well, highlighted by her dominant performance in the 11-12 50 breaststroke, where she backed up her top seed and won the event.
Zhang had one of the best meets of any meet participant. Out of 12 total individual races, she finished in the top three in 11 of them.
Zhang frequently competed with her RMSC teammates in the finals. When asked if swimming around teammates affected her races, she said there was increased pressure to perform well—not just due to being on the same team, but practicing with teammates at similar locations.
The Rockville-Montgomery Swim Club won the meet, scoring a total of 6,710.5 team points. Curl-Burke Swim Club came in second place with 6,599, followed by NOVA of Virginia Aquatics (2,979).
While Rockville-Montgomery’s men’s team easily handled Curl-Burke’s squad to win the men’s category (3,579.5-3,457), the Curl-Burke Swim Club’s women’s team outscored Rockville-Montgomery‘s by a mere 11 points to win theirs (3,142-3,131).
The next local Potomac Valley swimming event is the Sport Fair Winter Classic. The meet is sponsored by the Potomac Marlins Swim Team and is scheduled for Dec. 10-13 at George Mason University.