For weeks leading up to its Division I dual meet with Montgomery County power Churchill, Whitman Coach Geoff Schaefer tinkered with his lineup, searching for every possible advantage he could provide his team before it stepped to the blocks on Saturday at the Olney Swim Center.
Despite the absence of top swimmers from both sides, Schaefer knew the meet could provide a preview for the county and Metros meets at the end of the season where both teams expect to challenge for titles. And if Saturday was any indication, the Viking girls will be firmly in the hunt once again in February. With strong performances from a pair of seniors and four sophomores, the Whitman girls downed the defending Metros champions 94-77.
“Three times during the meet, I switched up my lineup just to get more points out of our swimmers,” Schaefer said. “I had a couple of tricks up my sleeve, but I wanted to leave myself with some options just in case they did something that I didn’t see.”
Schaefer’s carefully manufactured lineup paid dividends as the Vikings finished first in nine of the 10 girls’ swim events. Sophomore Victoria Kuhn took first in the 50-yard freestyle and 100 backstroke and teamed with freshman Audrey Gould, senior Danielle Schulkin and sophomore Katie Mahaffie to win the 200 medley relay with a time of 1:50.43. Schulkin finished first in the 100 butterfly and second in the 500 freestyle, which was won by sophomore teammate Lauren Levy who narrowly edged Churchill seniors Karen and Cathy Chen in the 200 IM. Levy, Katie and Jenna Mahaffie and sophomore Reia Tong capped the victory with their win in the 400 freestyle relay in 3:43:30.
The Bulldogs were without sophomore Natalya Ares and boys’ team leader senior Chris Verboncoeur while the Vikings were missing Lauren Poore as all three girls competed in the Short Course Junior Nationals held over the weekend in Columbus, Ohio.
Throughout the day, Schaefer reacted to Churchill Coach Rodney Van Tassell’s lineup selections, a strategy that he regularly employs during dual meets, when lineups are not required to be set beforehand as is the case in bigger meets later in the season.
“For a dual meet, I try to make sure that my swimmers are all over the place,” Schaefer said. “They’ll be looking for them, but they won’t see them until they step up to the block at the last second. A lot of it is making sure the other team doesn’t see what you have until the starting gun goes off.”
The Bulldogs turned the tables on the boys’ side, crushing Whitman 128-43 behind strong showings throughout their lineup. Sophomore Timothy Buettner took first place in the 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke and teamed with Collin Stanhope, Brian Xiao and Odin Soevik to win the 200 medley relay. Xiao claimed first in the 100 butterfly and finished second behind Buettner in the 100 backstroke while Stanhope won the 100 breaststroke and took second in the 50 freestyle behind Whitman freshman Patrick Scordato. The Bulldogs also swept the diving competition as sophomore Timothy Faerber and freshman Jackie Stanton each took first place in their respective events while the Vikings placed second and third in both.
A year ago, the Bulldogs snapped Good Counsel’s run of 12 straight girls Metros titles while Whitman finished behind the two front-runners, in third. With more experience and depth on the roster this time around, the Vikings are hoping Saturday’s showing is a sign of things to come.
“I’ve looked at the season and tried to map out what we have to do,” Schaefer said. “Good Counsel, they’ve lost a little bit, but they brought in a great freshman class so they’re going to be a strong competitor as well. The big key is going to be your lineup. That Metros lineup is going to be all over the place. It’s going to be fun to watch as a spectator but as a coach, I’m going to be sweating the entire time.”
Though swimmers and coaches often talk about the different approaches to dual meets versus championship meets at the end of the season – trying swimmers in different events, feeling out who fits best where and tapering in training – there are certain meets that raise the energy and expectations of teams.
Last Friday night, the Oakton-Robinson rivalry provided one of those opportunities.
In a highly-anticipated dual, the two Concorde District foes split the meet with the Oakton boys downing the seven-time state champion Rams, 192-123, and the state champion Robinson girls knocking off Oakton (2-1), 181-134. On the girls’ side, the Rams (3-0) started the meet by winning the 200 medley relay by almost two seconds and rode that momentum to a key win over one of the biggest challengers to their state title.
Junior Tori Baker won the 200 freestyle (2:02.29), sophomore Rachel Canty took the 200 IM (2:13.49) and 100 breast (1:09.33), senior Hannah Walden won the 50 and 100 free (25.05, 54.21) and senior Becca Bott captured the 100 fly (1:00.42) and 500 free (5:14.13).
On the boys’ side the Cougars (2-1) were led by senior Brad Phillips (U-Va.), who won titles in the 200- and 500-freestyle with times of 1:46.70 and 4:57.23, respectively. Freshman Philip Hu won the 100 fly with a time of 53.55 and the 100 backstroke in 53.30, and K.J. Park took the 100 breast (58.95) and 200 IM (2:01.10).
“I let them swim events they’ve never swam at this meet and at the same try to get more depth,” first-year Oakton Coach Hunter Owen said. “For mens’ we had a lot of depth, if you look at the results picking up fourth and fifth, that counts when you’re thinking about districts and states and where others will fit in besides the top kids.”
Robinson (2-1), which was missing one of its top swimmers, had a strong performance from junior Matt Osiecki, who won the 100 freestyle and took second in the 100 backstroke.
In other meets around the state, Loudoun County sophomore Katie Russell earned her first state qualifying time in the 50 freestyle in 26.12, helping the Raiders knock off Broad Run, 157-128, while the Loudoun County boys were defeated 125.5-159.5. … Thomas Jefferson defeated Marshall in boys 206-102 and in girls 222-93, moving both boys’ and girls’ to 3-0 on the season. Double winners for T.J. included Brianna Kim (fly and back), Anna Lan (100 and 200 free), and Matt Callahan (100 back and 50 free), and the girls’ 200 freestylers (Anna Lan, Amanda Blair, Sarah Graham, and Anna Green), who swept the event. Regional cuts included the boys’ 200 medley relay and 200 free relay, Stephen Seliskar in the 200 free, Matt Callahan in the 50 free and 100 back, and Alex Dona in the 100 fly. The boys’ 400 free relay turned in a state-qualifying time of 3:19.36.
Paul Tenorio contributed to this report