The Manor Woods swim team gathered in the clubhouse at its Rockville pool last Friday to talk about its goals for the upcoming Montgomery County Swim League season. On the eve of team time trials, Coach Elena Spak led the group in a discussion of team and individual hopes with even the youngest swimmers speaking up to tell what they aim to achieve by summer’s end.
When Assistant Coach Matt Thomas took his turn, he made sure the Terrapins knew that team success in the Division K ranked high on his list of priorities for the season. But the rising sophomore at North Carolina State also added his own lofty individual goals for his final MCSL campaign.
Thomas, holder of eight individual team records across several age groups, said he’d like to close out his decorated Manor Woods career by establishing new league records in the 100-meter freestyle and individual medley.
To do that he’d have to top 15-18 age group marks set by a pair of his friends at the 2008 All-Star meet – former Tilden Woods swimmer Eric Friedland (57.17 seconds, 100 I.M.) and former Hallowell swimmer Brady Fox (51.24, 100 free).
It’s just a fun goal to shoot for,” Thomas said. “I know both of them well and we go back a long time, so it will be cool to push myself to get there. I really just want to keep doing what I’m doing and hope for the best.”
Thomas and other local club swimmers will have their first chance to reach toward those goals on Saturday when the dual meet season kicks off across the region. Between the MCSL, Prince-Mont Swim League and Prince William Swim League, swimmers representing more than 150 area teams will hit the water this weekend with the chance to show their improvement since last summer.
MONTGOMERY COUNTY SWIM LEAGUE
Last summer, Cara Chuang’s accomplishments in the pool played a major part in Rockville’s sixth straight Division A title. The four-time All-Met, who recently completed her freshman year at Illinois, takes over head coaching duties for the Rays this season.
The return of the sibling combo of Harrison and Elaina Gu will make Chuang’s job easier, though both move up an age group this season. Harrison, 15, won a pair of races (100 IM, 50 breast) at the season-ending all-star meet last season, while Elaina, 13, posted the top time in the area in the 50-meter backstroke.
Michael Fu, a 17-year-old honorable mention All-Met pick during the high school season, also will be back this season, and Chuang believes newcomer Ophelie Loblack, 10, could make an immediate impact.
“I’m super-duper excited,” Chuang said. “I’ve seen a lot of these kids progressing since last summer, so I’m anxious to show how much better we’ve gotten as a team and how we’ve developed.”
Tilden Woods Coach Jen Barnes said her team’s depth will make it a factor in the division race. The Dolphins will be paced by a 15-18 age group that features a trio of Junior Nationals qualifiers – All-Met honoree Garrett Powell, Anna Epstein and Sidney Drill.
Timmy Ellett, 10, emerged as one of the league’s top swimmers in the 9-10 age group with a pair of wins at the all-star meet and he stays at that level this season. Jean-Marc Nugent, 15, ranks among the team’s most improved swimmers since last summer, according to Barnes.
“It’s hard for me to make lineups sometimes because we have so many well-rounded kids,” Barnes said. “It’s like a puzzle to make sure we get the most points we can. A lot of our kids’ times are separated by hundredths of seconds.”
Elsewhere, Thomas heads a group of swimmers poised for strong individual campaigns. He hopes to focus on a distance training program this summer after a spring full of sprint workouts with an eye on posting his best times when this season’s best get together for the individual all-Star meet on July 31.
All-Met Swimmers of the Year Jack Conger and Sarah Haase will team up again this summer, competing for Flower Valley – a Division C entrant this season. Upper County‘s Emily Wang, 11, hopes to continue her success from last season in a new age group after posting the area’s top 50-meter backstroke performance in the 9-10 division. Megan Kenna Sharkey, a 9-year-old from Potomac Woods, and Kelsy Song, a 13-year-old from Woodcliffe, each won two events at last season’s all-star meet and will move up an age group.
PRINCE-MONT SWIM LEAGUE
Takoma Park D.C. took its second-straight A Division crown last season, but it needed to fight off a strong challenge from Theresa Banks to get it. In fact, Coach Rob Green said in his initial rough calculation from the pool deck of the dual meet score between the teams last season, he thought Takoma Park D.C. came up short.
Green said he looks forward to the summer season because it re-unites swimmers who may have started out their swimming careers together but now compete for different club teams during the winter, making for a unique camaraderie.
Green’s squad lost a pair of swimmers who won events at last season’s Prince-Mont All-Star meet (Josh Tomlin, Adam Todd) but gets a boost from a strong corps of returning 13-14 boys and Jared Miller, 15, who had success in that group last season but moves up to the oldest age group this summer.
DeAngela Fobbs, 12, began swimming year-round this year, making her a candidate for a breakout summer season.
Takoma Park D.C. will begin its dual meet slate on Saturday at Silver Spring Swim Team, which moved up to Division A this season.
“Our message has been consistent – It’s about work,” Green said. “If you put in the work and come to practice and continue to swim hard, you put yourself in the best position to win.”
Theresa Banks will try to dethrone the reigning champions led by Lauren Artis, a triple-winner at last season’s all-star meet who ages up to the 9-10 division this season, and Darnell Hungerford, a 14-year-old who captured the 50-meter breaststroke at the season-ending meet. Tyla Jackson, 11, also returns after setting a league record in the 25-meter butterfly as a 10-year-old.
Westlake Village, in Division B this season, returns a pair of formidable families. Brothers Andrew and Anthony Nguyen, 9 and 12, respectively, each won a pair of events at the 2010 all-star meet, and their older brother Alex, 13, also competed in the season-ending meet. Kendall and Kerrigan McMillen (17 and 9) are two of the teams’ strongest swimmers on the girls’ side for the Waves.
Kingfish continues its climb up the league ranks this season, moving up to Division C after sweeping through its dual meet season in Division D a year ago. The team has improved its division placement after each of its five seasons of existence.
Saadiq Louisy, 14, stays in the same age group this season, hoping to build off an All-Star meet in which he notched two second-place finishes and a third.
“The first meet of course is always a challenge because you don’t really know what your opponent has,” Kingfish Coach John Mason said. “It’s an exciting time because you just put together what you think is your strongest lineup and then see where you are as you start getting through the first couple of events.”
PRINCE WILLIAM SWIM LEAGUE
This weekend marks the arrival of two long-awaited dates on the calendars of swimmers across Prince William County – the end of the school year, and the beginning of Prince William Swim League meets. Time to break out the swimsuits, fast times, and maybe some sunscreen, too, as the 24-team league gets underway.
Sudley, a team which dates its official history back to 1970, has long been the class of the PWSL and looks to figure prominently among the league’s best again this year. Last summer, the Seahorses capped off their 11th consecutive undefeated season – 80 wins and counting – with a dominating performance at the PWSL Blue Division championship, which included their toppling of three league records (15-18 boys medley, 15-18 boys freestyle relay, and 15-18 girls individual medley, Casie Boyle).
The first contest on Sudley’s schedule is an away meet against the Montclair Seahawks of the Black Division. A late-season matchup in 2010 between these teams ended rather decidedly in Sudley’s favor as the Seahorses outscored the Seahawks 3253-1804.
Regardless, Sudley head coach Dennis Miller, for whom his 42 years with the club have seemingly flown by – “Life in general has gone by faster than I ever anticipated,” – isn’t one to get ahead of himself.
“Even though I haven’t lost a meet in a long time, I am nervous before any meet,” said Miller. “And when I stop being nervous, it is time to stop doing this.”
Across the pool deck from Miller will be an old friend in Montclair head coach Marilyn Kelley. She has coached the Seahawks for 36 years and helped Miller build the PWSL into the competitive league it is today.
Sudley boasts talent worth recognizing from the youngest first-time swimmers to the college-bound seniors, but Miller’s top point-getters fall somewhere in between. Through five meets last season, the Seahorses’ top-five scorers ranged from eight to 11 years of age.
With confidence, Miller tabs Henry Campbell, 14, as one of the top boys on his team and in the league.
“He’s the one kid who has a chance to break some of our 13-14 records, and those records are all pretty fast,” Miller said.
“For seven year olds, they’re going to be really fast,” Miller, who will likely coach his third generation of Sudley swimmers within five or six years, assured.
Also of note, the matchup between defending division champions Piedmont (White) and Victory Lakes (Red) should reveal a great deal about each team’s crop of talent for 2011. With the season being as short as it is, the losing club will face an uphill battle for the remainder of the summer in its quest to repeat as division champion.
Taylor Knight contributed to this report.