There was little that could dampen the spirits of those who had gathered at the Kingston Chase pool for a meet, even as dark clouds and rain closed in on the region Friday morning.
That’s right – Friday.
But the day of the week wasn’t the only aspect of the meet that those unfamiliar with the event might question. The closure of Hiddenbrook Drive (the street on which Kingston Chase is located), the TYR expo in the parking lot, the collection of coaches representing nine teams from the Herndon Swim League and the NVSL, the podium backed by an American flag, and the electronic timing system might also have raised a few eyebrows.
Then, of course, there were the wooden Olympic rings attached to the fence.
Welcome to the annual Herndon Olympics.
The championship-style contest brings together nine teams from across the Herndon community, allowing swimmers who would normally compete in separate leagues to challenge neighborhood friends. Adding to the excitement were an enthusiastic duo of announcers and “official legs”, donning T-shirts labeling them as such.
But why use the label “Olympics”?
The name stems from the event’s long-standing relationship with former U.S. Olympians.
On Thursday, Lacey Nymeyer, a 2008 Beijing Olympian who won a silver medal as a part of the 400M freestyle relay and took 12th in the 100M freestyle, and Josh Davis, a three-time gold medalist at the 1996 Olympics and two-time silver medalist at the 2000 games, instructed a stroke clinic for 60 Herndon swimmers as a part of the BREAKout! Swim Clinic series. Not only was it a chance for the swimmers to improve their technique, but also to meet respected idols from the national swimming community.
Nymeyer returned Friday to award medals to the winners of each event as they finished. For Nymeyer, the contact with young, aspiring swimmers is priceless, especially in this, her second year at the Herndon Olympics.
“I think that’s what young swimmers need to see, the next level of swimming,” said the University of Arizona grad. “I love being able to come down and show towns like Herndon that I’m a real person and I started in a pool just like they did, swimming summer league, and having fun with my friends.”
Despite existing outside the league standings and community-oriented vibe, both pride and bragging rights were on the line, a recipe for best times and meet records.
A total of four meet records fell on Friday, including a pair of marks that had been on the books since 1990. Christian Ginieczki, 12, of Kingston Chase shattered the 11-12 boys backstroke record of Sean Dorsey by more than a full second (32.59) and also eclipsed Dorsey’s mark in butterfly (31.35). Josh Zhang, 10, of the HCC Fighting Halibut erased Bradley Phillips’ 2002 time of 32.53 with a new best 32.10.
And it’s a meet that Herndon swimmers will continue to look forward to in years to come.
Said Kingston Chase team rep Kelly Ginieczki: “Some of these kids in their regular dual meets, depending on what division they are in NVSL (or the size of their HSL team), for many of them it is their top competition of the season.”
Around the league
After just one NVSL record through two weekends, they were bound to start falling soon – and fall they did on Saturday.
Cassidy Bayer, 11, of Mount Vernon established herself as the best the league has ever seen in the 11-12 butterfly, taking down the 2008 time of Mosby Woods’ Janet Hu. Her time of 29.76 makes her the only 11-12 girl in NVSL history to breach the 30-second barrier.
– Taylor Knight
MVP Dolphins pull off PMSL ‘surprise‘
Because many swimmers on both sides have grown up training together at the same pools in the District, the teams maintain a close bond with a family feel. But being in the Prince-Mont Swim League‘s Division A means that “sometimes you just have to go at it.”
The squads met for one of those friendly showdowns on Saturday morning with the Dolphins pulling out a 297-279 home win to snap Takoma Park D.C.’s 14-dual meet winning streak dating back to 2008. Fourteen-year-old Bridie Burke led the charge by winning three individual events (50 free, 50 back and 100 IM), each in league record time, as the Dolphins pulled off the upset.
“It was most definitely a pleasant surprise,” Lewis said. “It was something we were training to achieve. We knew we would have an uphill battle, but we thought if we could have some big performances in key areas, we could pull out a win. It’s funny because (Rob Green, former Takoma Park D.C. coach and father of the team’s current coach of the same name,) has a saying: ‘Paper doesn’t hold up in the water.'”
On a day when eight pool records fell, MVP Dolphins took that sentiment to heart and built enough momentum to slip past the two-time defending division champions. The Dolphins (3-1) rebounded a week after coming up just short in a three-point loss to Theresa Banks with a near-perfect performance.
Burke, an honorable mention All-Met pick in the winter as a Georgetown Visitation freshman, broke a pair of her own records set last season and a 50 free record that had stood since 1981. Lewis said Burke hopes to continue to drop time to qualify for junior nationals.
“She’s just an outstanding young person,” Lewis said. “She’s just coming into herself. We’re very, very please with how she’s come along.”
Michael and Andres Kelley also won three events for the MVP Dolphins. Michael, 11, won the boys’ 11-12 50 free, 50 breast and 100 IM, while eight-year-old Andres — who holds league best times in all three of his individual events — took the boys’ eight-and-under 25 free, 25 back and 25 breast.
Theresa Banks, which had won its previous two meets by a combined five points, stayed undefeated by beating Silver Spring, 298-274. The Tiger Sharks — who are seeking their first Division A title — are in control of the division for now, heading into Saturday’s meeting with Takoma Park D.C.
With several teams still holding realistic shots at the division crown, Lewis, whose team won its only Division A title in 2008, said he’s already started to go through some of the scenarios in his head. He’s only sure that anything could happen.
“We’ll see a high level of performance and excitement here at the finish,” Lewis said. “It will be brewing in practice over the next two weeks and push everybody to do their best. It will be a historic season one way or another.”
This weekend’s results assured there will be no final-week matchups of undefeated teams in the PMSL.
Westlake Village (Division B) and Kingfish (Division C) kept the inside track to take their divisions with comfortable wins, while King’s Landing (Division E) and Hawthorne Country Club (Division F) captured victories that left them as the lone unbeaten squads in their respective divisions.
With Roger Carter Seals‘s 322-254 win against Fort Washington, Russett is the last undefeated team left in Division D. The Sharks will swim at Fort Washington on Saturday, looking to complete a perfect regular season.
Ledecky, Ellett enter MCSL record book
Ledecky, 14, finished the girls’ 13-14 100 IM in 1:06.09, in a win against Tanterra. Ellett, 10, swam the boys’ 9-10 50 free in 29.71 seconds as part of the Dolphins’s 507-285 win againt Mill Creek Towne.
Ledecky needed to trim less than two-tenths of a second off her season-best time to take down the record and did it on Saturday morning — one of her four individual wins in the meet to help the Porpoises stay undefeated in Division H. In four weeks of competition, she owns four of the area’s top five times in the event.
“My coaches got me really pumped up for it and my teammates were really cheering me on,” Ledecky said. “I was really focused, and I thought I could give it a shot.”
Ellett is no stranger to the record book. He still holds three eight-and-under league marks he set two years ago. After a stellar 2010 season that closed with a pair of all-star meet wins, Ellett has continued to dominate his age group this summer.
He also owns the league’s top times in the 25 breast (18.09) and 25 fly (15.20). He is seeded third in the league all-star standings in the 25 back (16.90). Only Woodley Gardens swimmers Djordje Orcev and Jack Rose have posted better times in that event.
Ellett, whose grandmother founded the Tilden Woods program, has been within a second of the league record in each of his events for several weeks, so it wasn’t too much of a surprise when he clocked the record freestyle time.
“We knew it was coming — It was just when he was going to do it,” Tilden Woods Coach Jen Barnes said. “It was really cool because it was our last home Saturday meet when we honor our seniors, so it was a pretty big meet. He just got himself psyched up with everybody there cheering for him and all that going on.”
They joined Chevy Chase Recreation Association‘s Caroline McTaggart, Little Falls‘s Rachel Danegger and Rockville brothers Devin and Darius Truong in the group of swimmers who have established new league records this season.
Barnes’s squad also dropped another record later in the weekend in the girls ‘ 14-and-under 100 graduated medley at the Division A relay carnival.
The performance impressed Barnes because at the relay carnival the butterfly leg of the event must start from in the water, which can cost valuable time. At the all-star relay meet, each leg of the relay except for the backstroke begins with a dive start.
“Knock on wood,” Barnes said, “but when we go to all-star relays at the end of the month, hopefully they’ll lower it even more.”
Rockville won the Division A relay carnival, edging second-place Tilden Woods by 12 points. The league powers will meet on Saturday at Rockville in a regular-season-ending dual meet.
The league’s top swimmers won’t have to wait until next weekend for their next competition. The annual Coaches’ Long Course Meet will be held at Rockville on Tuesday night with the top eight competitors for each stroke in a given age group taking to the water.
– Eric Detweiler, email@example.com