Last February, the Churchill girls pulled off a stunning upset at Metros, knocking off 12-time defending champion Good Counsel with a deep, balanced lineup. This year, another Division I team from Montgomery County is hoping to repeat the feat with a similar approach.
On the heels of a big win over Churchill on Dec. 12 and a dominant showing at the Division I relay carnival earlier this month, the Whitman girls could be the team to beat at next month’s Montgomery County championships and are becoming a true threat to capture the girls’ Metros title. The formula for this season’s success begins with a talented corps of senior leaders to go along with several budding underclassmen and a tenacity eighth-year coach Geoff Schaefer says he has never seen from a girls’ team.
“It’s like a virus,” Schaefer said. “They just want to eat everyone alive. The girls really just have that fire this year. They caught it at Metros — they got third place and they tasted it and said, ‘Hey, we can do better than this.’ In the offseason they all trained a lot harder and as a result, you see the times dropping.”
Against Churchill, the Vikings took nine of ten swimming events and continued to improve their splits at the relay carnival where they set a new county record in the 200 butterfly relay (1:47.69) and narrowly missed breaking records in the 200 mixed medley, 200 mixed fly and 200 mixed backstroke.
“This is probably the best girls team we’ve had in Whitman history,” senior Dani Schulkin said. “Losing to Churchill by three points at the relay carnival was tough but I think that just motivated us even more.”
Schulkin will aim to defend her Metros title in the 100 fly and the 200 medley relay where the Vikings return their full 2009 team of Schulkin, sophomores Victoria Kuhn and Reia Tong and senior Lauren Poore. And with the addition of freshmen Charlotte Meyer and Audrey Gould and sophomore Katie Mahaffie, Whitman — whose girls have never finished higher than second at Metros — has more than enough depth to challenge the top contenders.
In order to achieve their goal of winning their first overall county championship since 2000, however, the Vikings know they need a boost from the boys. So far this season, the Whitman boys are 0-2 in dual meets but a one-point loss to Walter Johnson Saturday showed they are not far off from where they need to be. Against the Wildcats, the Viking boys took first in nine of 11 events as Serge Gould continued to impress in the 200 IM (1:55.97) and 100 free (49.04) and Patrick Scordato swept the 50 free (23.07) and 100 fly (56.16). But while the team’s top talent came through, a lack of depth kept them from winning three of the events in which they placed first.
“I think we’re capable of finishing a lot stronger than we’ve started,” senior co-captain David Hepp said. “I’m more one of the B-swimmers than the top stars so I’m one of the guys who needs to step up his game for us to do that.”
Expectations were high coming into the season, but now early season success has made the prospect of a banner season more of a realistic possibility than a pipe dream.
“Knocking off Churchill was big, but that’s just the first step,” Schaefer said. “I really think the next few weeks, especially when it comes down to championship time, you’re going to see a lot more out of the Whitman girls. They’re hungry for it and they really want it.”
Generals not the average district contender
Just one week before the start of the championship meets, two area teams will get a heavy dose of the increased competition that comes when there are titles on the line.
Yorktown and Washington-Lee, two Arlington County rivals, will face off in a dual meet this Friday in a match-up of unbeatens that will decide the Virginia AAA National District’s regular season titles.
The dual pits two teams that, while close in proximity, offer different backgrounds.
The Patriots have been a power in the state in past years, especially on the girls’ side — they won the Virginia AAA girls’ state championship in 2006 and 2007. Washington-Lee, meanwhile, struggled to win one meet in a season when Coach Kristina Dorville took over five years ago, she said.
Over the past four years, the Generals have built a competitive roster that, unlike most area schools, features few athletes that swim year round for club teams. Dorville estimates that just five percent of Washington-Lee’s roster swims club.
“We are a different breed of swim team,” Dorville said. “Our kids aren’t necessarily year-round swimmers, paying to train, but they are getting everything they can from a public high school swim program.”
Last year, the Generals boys’ beat Yorktown for the first time in at least eight and took two individual swimmers, Freddy Crawford and Jake Huston, as well as a relay, to states.
With both the boys’ and girls undefeated this season, a friendly rivalry that features kids who have competed against each other growing up will get even more of a boost.
“The kids have been talking all year about this meet,” Dorville said.