From the moment they walked out onto the pool deck at the Takoma Aquatic Center for Saturday’s Washington Metropolitan Prep School Swim and Dive League championships, the Gonzaga boys let everyone know they were determined to reclaim the title.
Armed with purple body paint, hats and noisemakers, the Purple Eagles kept their energy flowing throughout the meet, and their constant cheers fueled their performances in the water from start to finish. With a clean sweep of all three relays and two more individual event wins, Gonzaga put its depth on display with a dominating victory to claim its first league championship since 2008. Good Counsel, with 281 points, finished a distant second to Gonzaga (531.5), and was followed by DeMatha (279) and two-time defending champion Georgetown Prep (266).
“We were dying to beat Prep and win this meet. We had a little grudge from last year,” Gonzaga junior Sean Sullivan said moments after jumping in the pool to celebrate with his teammates. “We definitely have the biggest cheering section here and that seems to help our swimmers a lot.”
On the girls’ side, Good Counsel continued its reign over the WMPSSDL, capturing its seventh consecutive title with 384 points. Holy Cross (258) finished second for the fourth straight year followed by St. John’s (254).
Sullivan won the 50 free (21.12) as the Purple Eagles went 1-2-3 in the event and senior teammate Xavier Pugliese (4:48.23) and sophomore Paul O’Hara (4:51.89) went 1-2 in the 500 free. In the relays it was junior Tim Barry, Sullivan, junior Sean Spata and senior Nick Knise who got things started with a win in the 200 medley relay (1:37.64). In the 200 free relay, O’Hara, senior Torey Ortmayer, Knise and Sullivan stormed back from an early deficit thanks to Sullivan’s 21.12 anchor leg to win in 1:26.89 and O’Hara, junior Billy Cowden, Spata and junior Madison Hardimon took the 400 free relay (3:14.16) to complete the sweep. Overall Gonzaga finished with 17 top-five finishes.
“None of this could be won with one single superstar, it’s all about our team,” Gonzaga coach Dave Norton said. “It came down to all our guys working really hard to get here and stepping up tonight. We are a no-cut program, we’re open to everybody. We let everybody who wants to swim come out for the team — that’s why our team is so big, that’s why we’re so loud — but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Despite not feeling especially fit following a 2 1/2 hour club practice earlier in the day, Good Counsel sophomore Jack Conger shattered a pair of meet records, sweeping the 200 (1:41.64) and 100 yard freestyle (44.95) — the latter with an automatic All-American time.
“I had a real rough morning practice and I was really tired,” Conger said. “I came in just trying to win both events and not exert a lot of energy. But when I started warming up, I felt good and I just gave it all I had.”
Conger’s time in the 100 free broke the league record he set earlier in the season, and he hopes to bring down two more records on Feb. 26 at Metros.
“I’m trying to break records in both my individuals, and I’m hoping we can win both relays (200 and 400 free), too,” said Conger, who broke records in the 50 and 100 free last year and plans to swim the 200 free and 100 back this time around.
Georgetown Prep senior Jonathan Ekstrom was also a double-winner as he took first in the 200 individual medley (1:55.26) and 100 back (52.31). Paul VI senior Eric Nasakaitis won the 100 fly (52.39), narrowly edging out O’Connell‘s Ian Decker (52.41) and St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes senior Conor MacNair took first in the 100 breast (59.22).
Holy Cross senior Katie Rogers swept the 200 (1:52.19) and 500 free (5:00.39) to top the individual point standings for the meet (40) and junior teammate Ashleigh Ferguson set a new meet record in the 100 back (57.25). Other individual event winners included St. John’s junior Morgan Whyte in the 50 free (24.24), Georgetown Visitation freshman Bridie Burke in the 200 IM (2:09.48), Sidwell Friends’ Anna Epstein in the 100 fly (57.81) and Bishop Ireton senior Liz Collins in the 100 breast (1:08.02).
Like Gonzaga’s boys, Good Counsel’s girls won all three relays and piled up 10 top-five finishes. Senior Moira James, junior Sarah Haase, sophomore Catherine Mulquin and senior Morgan Dailey won the 200 medley relay (1:49.75), Mulquin, sophomores Jordan Martinko and Anna Kolanowski and freshman Makenzie Miller took first in the 200 free relay (1:40.58) and sophomores Martinko, Kolanowski, Miller and Haase placed first in the 400 free (3:39.96). Haase won the 100 free (53.14) and finished second to Whyte in the 50 (24.49) for the Falcons who enjoyed the victory but have their sights set on reclaiming the Metros title.
“We always enjoy this meet and we had a great showing tonight,” Good Counsel coach Billy Howard said. “But the big one is in three weeks — that’s what we care about.”