Heading into the final event of the Metros championships at Germantown Indoor Swim Center, the Whitman girls’ 400 freestyle relay team was determined to send a message to all in attendance. Despite winning just one prior event, the Vikings had already sealed their second straight title, but juniors Victoria Kuhn and Reia Tong and sophomores Audrey Gould and Charlotte Meyer wanted to start the celebration early.
Sparked by Tong’s torrid second leg, they broke the meet record with an automatic all-American time of 3 minutes 29.15 seconds to put an exclamation point on Whitman’s repeat.
“We not only wanted to beat everyone else, but we wanted to beat them by a lot,” Tong said. “We just wanted to prove that we could do it again.”
On a night when six meet records fell in all, depth proved to be the deciding factor for both the Whitman girls and the Gonzaga boys. The Purple Eagles won just one individual event – junior Sean Sullivan took the 50 free in 21.33 – and one relay but picked up enough points up and down their lineup to capture their first Metros title since 2003.
Whitman used nine top-five finishes, including a second meet record in the 200 free relay (1:36.32), to pile up 407 points to pull away from Good Counsel (344) and Churchill (321). Gonzaga (395) finished ahead of Churchill (353) and Good Counsel (335).
“This is the meet that defines everything,” said Gonzaga senior Nick Knise, who swam the third leg on Gonzaga’s first-place 200 free relay team (1:25.99). “We’ve been wanting to win it the last couple years and this year we had the team to do it. We don’t have superstars, we pride ourselves on the team, and it just feels great to go out on top.”
Knise took sixth in the 50 free and 10th in the 100 free while Sullivan added a third-place in the 100 to his 50 win. Junior Madison Hardimon placed fourth in the 100 free and junior Tim Barry finished sixth in the 100 back as the Purple Eagles took advantage of every point they could claim from a top finish all the way down to 20th place. Sophomore Paul O’Hara, senior Tory Ortmayer, Knise and Sullivan won the 200 free relay in an all-American consideration time of 1:25.99 and Gonzaga took third in both the 200 medley and 400 free relays.
For Whitman, Tong placed second in both the 50 (23.81 – AAC) and 100 free (51.79 – AAC), Meyer took second in the 200 IM (2:02.81 -AAU) and 100 back (57.29 – AAC) and Audrey Gould finished second in the 100 breast (1:05.34). Tong, freshman Sarah Kannan, Gould and Meyer set the meet record in the 200 free relay for a team loaded with underclassmen who have the potential to extend the Vikings’ Metros reign.
“We’re a very young team,” Gould said. “We’re sophomores and juniors – not seniors – so to be able to do this again is just amazing, and it shows that we should be back next year.”
After breaking the 50 and 100 freestyle records as a freshman, Conger repeated the feat, claiming meet records and automatic all-American times in the 200 free (1:39.05) and 100 backstroke (48.20).
“I love swimming here,” Conger said. “I’m not sure what I’ll swim here next year, but I’ll be going for two more records and we’ll see what happens.”
Haase was equally impressive as she re-set her own record in the 200 individual medley (1:59.97) and broke her sister Colleen’s meet record in the 100 breastroke (1:00.44) – both in automatic all-American times.
“We’ve got a little family rivalry,” Haase said. “But she called me earlier today and told me to break it, and it’s a big accomplishment.”
Good Counsel swept the 200 medley relays to start the meet with senior Joey Devlin, juniors Evan Garfield and Ryan Edmunds and Conger posting an all-American consideration time of 1:35.62 and seniors Moira James and Morgan Dailey, Haase and sophomore Anna Kolanowski winning their event in an all-American consideration time of 1:47.82 (see Comcast’s video of this race here).
Walter Johnson senior Elizabeth Pepper swept the 200 (1:47.91) and 500 free (4:48.84), both in automatic all-American times and Churchill junior Natalya Ares won both the 50 free (23.70) and 100 butterfly (55.31).
“Last year didn’t go as well as I wanted so I’m glad I was able to go out and swim well. Everything just kind of came together,” said Pepper, who faced tough fields in both events that included Wilson senior Callie Fosburgh and Holy Cross senior Katie Rogers in both events and Gaithersburg junior Ellen Anderson in the 500. “I knew both races were going to be really fast, I was just hoping I’d be able to make it through. They’re all really fast, so those were two very tough races.”
Georgetown Prep senior Jonathan Ekstrom tallied two automatic all-American times to win the 200 IM (1:49.77) and 100 breast (56.90), and was thrilled to end his high school career by helping the Little Hoyas – who had won seven straight Metros titles – win the 400 free relay to end the night. After touching out Walter Johnson’s Garrett Powell, Gonzaga’s Sean Spata and a hard-charging Conger, Ekstrom let out a roar and leapt out of the water. Senior Will Lawler, freshman Andrew Gibson and junior Carl St. John teamed with Ekstrom to take the race.
“We knew at that point we weren’t in contention for the team title, so we figured we had to do something,” Ekstrom said. “It’s senior year and you’ve got to go out with a bang. I don’t think I’ve ever sprinted that hard in 100 yards straight – so that was special.”
Other individual event winners included Blake senior Spencer Sterling in the 100 fly (49.90 – AAU), Good Counsel senior Colin Schwartz in the 100 free (46.82), Powell in the 500 free (4:29.12 – AAU), Sherwood senior Emily Ryczek in the 100 free (51.18 – AAC) and Holy Cross junior Ashleigh Ferguson in the 100 back (55.48 – AAU).