What: Oakton vs. Robinson
Where: Cub Run RECenter
When: 6:30 p.m., Friday
Last season, Oakton celebrated during the Northern Region championships after beating powerhouse Robinson for the boys’ title. A week later, however, Robinson got the last laugh, winning a seventh consecutive boys’ state championship, and taking home the girls’ title, too.
Friday at 6:30 p.m., the two rivals will meet at Cub Run in a meet that has both teams excited for what they said is the most important meet of the dual season.
Despite the usual things that temper expectations going into early dual meets – both schools still are learning where swimmers best fit in the meet sheet and some key swimmers are absent – there is no doubt that both programs want to win tonight.
“It’s important because it’s a rivalry and obviously it helps boost morale,” Robinson Coach Clayton Joyner said. “It helps jump-start the rest of the year to finish strong in the dual season. Everyone wants to go undefeated.”
Added Oakton Coach Hunter Owen: “This rivalry is huge. This is our biggest meet as far as dual season goes. Everyone cares, the kids get really fired up. … This is Robinson. Just like on Robinson’s side I’m sure they say, ‘Hey this is Oakton.’ This is one the kids care about and dig deep for and that’s what I told them to do.”
Oakton will be missing All-Met junior Kaitlin Pawlowicz, who is at junior nationals in Ohio, but Owen, the Cougars first-year coach, said the team still held high goals going into the meet.
On Thursday night, the team met for a pasta dinner and Owen said he spoke to the team about its season goals and, though he’s never experienced this rivalry meet firsthand, also about how to approach such a big rivalry meet.
Owen said he emphasized that this is one of four times Oakton will see Robinson, with district, regionals and states the important meetings down the road. Led by All-Met senior Bradley Phillips, the Cougars are among the biggest threat to knock Robinson off its seven-year title run.
“One thing you have to know is this team is real tight, super tight,” Owen said. “I pretty much just have to show up because these kids have it going on they get it together they pull it together. They know the right things to say.”
Robinson is also under the direction of a first-year coach in Joyner, and he said that the Rams are preparing for the dual meet with the idea of protecting the successful history of its program. With tremendous depth, Robinson hopes to counter what Joyner called “the big guns” of Oakton’s program.
Some swimmers Joyner said he would look to tonight include senior Hannah Walden, junior Tori Baker, sophomore Rachel Canty, junior Kyle Bumiller and senior Cameron Boster.
“We know Oakton has big guns but the point system is not based on big guns,” Joyner said. “With our depth and more importantly with backing up the tradition of Robinson swimming everyone is fired up and that’s what makes us special. It’s not like the Yankees where we think we’re a conglomerate where you can recruit. We have a bunch of kids that from day one…they just work their butts off, they work to get to that same point and keep the legend going on.”