In the six seasons since Bethesda joined the Montgomery County Swim League‘s Division A, the team has handled the league’s top competition well enough to keep its spot, joining perennial powers Rockville and Tilden Woods as the only Division A teams to avoid a drop down during that time.
But for all their consistency, the Barracudas have not placed better than fourth out of six in the final standings or finished with a winning record in dual meets in that span.
Buoyed by a strong start to the summer, Bethesda hopes to change that this season. After battling Rockville close and beating an Upper County squad that finished ahead of them in 2010, the Barracudas enter Saturday’s matchup at Tilden Woods with plenty of confidence. The team has shown firepower across its lineup with swimmers ranked in the league’s top-10 in 26 different individual events.
“That win against Upper County really boosted our morale,” 18-year-old Matthew Kannan said. “The last few years our matchups with them have been a little up in the air, really close every time. Winning this year definitely gave us a boost of motivation. Coming into this weekend, we’re feeling pretty good.”
First-year coach Elizabeth Gutermann’s squad has been boosted by an infusion of new talent combined with an improving corps of returning swimmers. The program added more than 60 new swimmers for the summer, bumping enrollment up to 262. That total includes 72 eight-and-under swimmers.
A pair of newcomers, 12-year-old Xaviera Steele and 10-year-old Alexandre Labossiere, currently rank in the league’s top 10 in multiple events. Steele set a new team record in the girls’ 11-12 50 back in the opening meet and bettered it last week, finishing in 35.20 seconds.
Labossiere has recorded top-six league times in three different events (50 free, 25 fly, 25 back). He’ll have a stiff test on Saturday when he’ll match up against Tilden Woods’s Timmy Ellett, who is seeded slightly ahead in all three events.
The Barracudas’ remarkable depth, especially on the girls’ side, was on display on Saturday in the 416-375 win over the Dolphins — who finished one spot ahead of Bethesda in the division standings the past two seasons.
Bethesda’s Oana Mirestean, Amanda Liu, Dylan McAfee, Miranda Romberg were each separated by less than a second in the girls’ 9-10 50 free. Mirestean won the race in 33.63 seconds and all four swimmers’ times placed them among the top-17 for all MCSL competitors in the event this season.
Bethesda also has three swimmers ranked in the top 14 of the girls’ 11-12 50 fly, paced by 12-year-old Eleanore McGuire-Wein. (That group finished just behind Upper County’s Emily Wang in an exciting finish on Saturday.)
“I think that depth could make a big difference when it comes to the relay carnival later in the year,” Gutermann said. “I’ve been told that Bethesda usually hasn’t been very good when it comes to the relay carnival, and I’m hoping this season we can change that.”
Sisters Sarah, Hannah and Leah Kannan, ages 14, 11 and 8, respectively, have also won multiple events each of the first two weeks. Reia Tong, 17, set a team record in the girls’ 18-and-under 100 IM earlier this season.
On the boys’ side, 18-year-old Michael Center and 17-year-old Tyler Pham have stood out this season. Center has recorded three top-six MCSL times in boys’ 15-18 individual events. He’s ranked No. 3 in the 100 free (54.64 seconds). Pham set a team record in the boys’ 15-18 100 IM at the season-opening meet (1:01.81).
Gutermann, who competed at Potomac, Manor Woods and Seven Locks in her MCSL career, has tried to foster even more team spirit this season around the public pool that has long celebrated Barracuda pride.
One of her new initiatives to build cohesiveness was requiring swimmers to attend at least one team function during the week if they want to compete in the Saturday A meet. That means that if swimmers want to practice with their club teams during the week, they must show up to help with the B meet during the week or attend another team activity to earn weekend eligibility.
Bethesda hopes those factors can help deliver at least two wins in its final three meets to assure its best finish since winning Division B in 2005. But the team knows it won’t be easy to continue its strong start as the summer season kicks into high gear.
“We’ve been working on finishing races to prepare us for tight meets,” Gutermann said. “It’s important to know how to find the wall and know where your opponents are without having to look. Hopefully that’s fresh in their minds and good practice to help us on Saturday.”
- Eric Detweiler, email@example.com
Fairfax gears up for Lee Graham
Climbing the division ladder is often a bittersweet process for NVSL teams. On the one hand, growth and promotion are among every team’s fundamental goals. But on the other hand, teams accustomed to winning are, more often than not, faced with the harsh reality of multiple losses.
The Fairfax Frogs, who moved up to Division 2 after earning a 4-1 record in Division 3 last year, are hoping to break the cycle this season. Even after an opening weekend defeat at the hands of Highlands Swim, the Frogs remain optimistic.
“We were missing several of our 9-10 boys for that meet,” said Fairfax head coach Brian Dufour. “We have been in the water a little more consistently now…and I see our season picking up.”
This weekend, Fairfax will look to right the ship, but will have its hands full with the Lee Graham Dolphins and longtime head coach Mike Cook. A USS coach, Cook is familiar with many of the Fairfax swimmers, who he says have been dishing out some friendly trash talk in the lead up to the meet.
“Some of the kids from Fairfax have already been calling me, telling me ‘Don’t forget to come on Saturday’ and things like that,” said Cook. “So it should be a fun meet for both teams.”
In a lighthearted response, Cook says his team “might cook up some frog legs” before practice on Friday.
The Dolphins were a middle-of-the-road Division 2 team in 2010, posting a 3-2 record and more than proving they belong.
Already this year, Lee Graham has gotten out to a fast start, dispatching the Hunter Mill Sharks 255-147 in week one. Daniel Reinfurt, 12, contributed one of the meet’s more dominant performances, running away with the 50 freestyle by more than five seconds (30.17). He also cruised to an easy victory in the 50 butterfly (33.77) and helped the 100 medley team of Justin Britton, David Temeles, Reinfurt, and Jack West edge the Sharks by .26 seconds (1:10.24).
The Dolphin boys ran into problems when they reached the breaststroke events, being swept in both the 8 & under and 9-10 races.
“Our breaststrokers were quite upset when I announced on Monday that the other team’s breaststrokers scored more points than us,” Cook said.
However, the Frog boys, too, struggled against Highlands Swim in breaststroke, not picking up a single victory. Thus, the boys breaststroke has potential to be this meet’s tipping point.
Lee Graham’s Natalie Leake, 18, who just finished her freshman season at Virginia Tech, will expect little resistance in the 50 breaststroke (35.87 against Hunter Mill) but will be challenged by Rachel Rogers should both girls swim the 50 backstroke again.
Keep an eye on the Fairfax 13-14 girls. Last weekend, the Frogs won each of the individual events for the age group (free, Rachel Ward, 29.42; back, Ward, 33.83; breast, Leah Rogers, 37.44; fly, Rogers, 31.05) as well as the 100 medley relay (1:04.85). Their strength should be a high point for Fairfax.
“[Ward and Rogers] are very strong in their respective events,” said Dufour.
With swimmers on both teams excited for the meet, it should be a good one this weekend.
PWSL showdown set
Together, these teams are responsible for a number of the top times in the PWSL. Last weekend, Braemar’s Ian Tansill, 10, turned in the league’s best time in the 50 freestyle (34.44), just slightly faster than Sudley’s David Grinstead, 10, (35.65). It should be a must-see race.
The 11-12 boys 100 IM will also be hotly contested. The Seahorses’ Sam Pomajevich, 12, and Bobby Sherrill, 12, and the Blasters’ Brendan Murphy, 12, all swam within two seconds of one another in week two.
- Taylor Knight
Tags: Amanda Liu, Bethesda, Bobby Sherrill, Braemar Blasters, Brendan Murphy, Brian Dufour, Daniel Reinfurt, David Grinstead, David Temeles, Dylan McAfee, Eleanore McGuire-Wein, Elizabeth Gutermann, Fairfax Frogs, Highlands Swim, Hunter Mill Sharks, Ian Tansill, Jack West, Jillian Fritsch, Justin Britton, Leah Kannan, Leah Rogers, Lee Graham Dolphins, Madeleine Brant, Matthew Kannan, Michael Center, Mike Cook, Miranda Romberg, Natalie Leake, NVSL, Oana Mirestean, Old Bridge Breakers, Piedmont Tsunamis, PWSL, Rachel Rogers, Rachel Ward, Ridgewood Barracudas, Sam Pomajevich, Sarah Kannan, Sudley Seahorses, Tyler Pham, Wellington, Xaviera Steele