At this time last summer, Westleigh Coach Jeremy Snyder felt his swimmers starting to drag a bit. It wasn’t just that the Barracudas sat winless in the Montgomery County Swim League‘s Division A through four weeks, but they’d had to struggle just to stay close, losing three straight meets to the league’s perennial powers by at least 123 points.
There’s a decidedly different buzz around the North Potomac pool these days.
After dropping down to Division B, Westleigh has migrated to the top of the standings in one of the league’s most competitive division. Buoyed by the challenge, the Barracudas are the lone unbeaten left in the group after surviving several tight meets. They will try to complete an undefeated dual meet season on Saturday when they host Woodley Gardens.
“We try to make every day fun, but at this point last year, the kids were getting tired of losing by a large margin,” Snyder said. “This year, they’re all nailbiters. Competition always makes it more fun. The children are happier and having a lot more fun in Division B.”
Westleigh has shown the ability to thrive in the tight meets that have marked Division B this summer. The Barracudas beat Quince Orchard by 15 to start the season and knocked off Potomac Glen by 11 in week two in a meet Westleigh didn’t lead until the 49th event.
“We had to have a perfect second half of that meet to come back,” Snyder said.
Andrew Gibson made a splash this week by winning a pair of events at the Coaches Long Course Meet. The 14-year-old has not been beaten in an individual race at a dual meet yet this season. Emily Bolek, 17, won four events each of the past two weeks for the Barracudas. Snyder also praised Thomas Finn, a recent Wootton grad who plans to swim at MIT next year, for swimming the best times of his career this summer.
Potomac Glen has emerged as the top competition in the division after a 417-374 win against Woodley Gardens on Saturday and taking the relay carnival title on Sunday. Woodley Gardens’s has hung tough with three wins by less than 100 points.
And there is still plenty to be decided. Westleigh’s fourth place finish at the relay carnival brought the teams even closer together. Based on the points system that decides the league champion, Westleigh leads the division with 30 points with Potomac Glen (28 points) and Woodley Gardens (22 points) close behind. The winner of the divisional meet earns 20 points, so Westleigh will need a good showing at the meet even if it finishes the regular season undefeated in dual meets.
Longtime Woodley Gardens Coach Clay Miller said the teams are so evenly matched that many meets have been decided by who can fill out the most complete lineup and avoid unnecessary disqualifications.
“It’s been exciting because before every meet you’re talking to kids and saying its going to be a great meet,” Woodley Gardens Coach Clay Miller said. “You let them know how important each race will be and that every thing they do right is going to be important for the team. It’s certainly very unique. You wish every year you could get the teams all lined up like this.”
Buoyed by six swimmers who have posted top-10 all-star times, Woodley Gardens will try to further shake up the standings by upsetting the Barracudas this weekend.
Eight-year-old Brian Rose, 10-year-old Jack Rose, 10-year-old Djordje Orcev, 15-year-old Matthew Din and 17-year-old Ashleigh Ferguson have starred for the Waves this season. Orcev and Jack Rose compete in the same division and have the league’s top two times in the boys’ 9-10 25 back.
Miller’s sentiment about filling lineups will be further tested on Saturday as teams across the league will be missing top swimmers because of the Potomac Valley Junior/Senior Long Course Championships in College Park. The teams with more competitors who can work in a swim with their local pool during the busy weekend will have a decided advantage.
But that’s not news to the swimmers who have spent the last few weeks pushing their way through down-to-the-wire meets.
“It’s been all exciting, competitive meets,” Snyder said. “It’s turning me gray before my years, but I like it alot.
- Eric Detweiler
Undefeated Division 2 matchup
With but two weekends of dual meets remaining in the 2011 NVSL season, division pictures are beginning to crystallize.
Perhaps first among these marquee matchups will be Highlands Swim- Lee-Graham in a contest of undefeated Division 2 foes. Each boast 3-0 records, but it is Highlands Swim that has posted the more convincing victories thus far, trouncing its first three opponents each by greater than 100 points.
Having scored the meet late Thursday night, Highlands Swim Coach Katherine Richards believes Saturday’s meet against Lee-Graham might be considerably more nerve-racking.
“Looking at the other teams’ results, I think this will be our closest meet,” said Richards, in her second year as Highlands coach. “It might come down to the last relay even.”
For Highlands, a team which finished tied for third in Division 2 last season, its emergence as one of the league’s premier clubs has been evident this year. At Wednesday’s divisional relays, the Whomping Turtles smashed a total of eight team records and took the title, surprising even Richards, to hear her tell it.
According to Richards, a significant number of her Highlands Swim kids have joined year-round programs, and the impact is clear between the lane lines.
Twins Chuck and Jayme Katis, also assistant coaches for the Whomping Turtles, lead the team’s older contingent of talented swimmers. Both college-bound recruits – Chuck will swim for Harvard and Jayme for Virginia Tech – have been tough to beat this summer. Chuck has yet to drop an individual race, while sister Jayme remains unbeaten in the 15-18 freestyle.
For the 8 & under age group, William Evans has been an absolute force. Last weekend against Hunter Mill, Evans took first in the 25 freestyle (17.99) and 25 backstroke (20.63). The eight-year old also anchored the winning 100 meter freestyle relay (1:19.08).
Perhaps the team’s greatest asset, however, is its collection of 9-10 boys. An absurd six-deep lineup of Diego Cruzado, Zach Tripodi, Stephane de Cazotte, Josh Nammo, Ben Charles and Mayu Ovando allows Richards the flexibility to exploit matchups with opposing teams – seemingly at will – as she plans to Saturday.
Richards has no illusions about the significance of every point Saturday: “I think (this meet) is going to decide the division.”
Records not so rare at Divisional Relays
Many NVSL swimmers enjoyed a bit of extra pool time this week as a violent, but passing, storm cleared out of the Northern Virginia region in advance of Wednesday’s divisional relays.
Just four days after dropping a taut contest at home to Chesterbrook (the Tiger Sharks’ closest since 2003), Tuckahoe exacted a measure of revenge at the Division 1 relay meet at Chesterbrook. In a battle to establish pecking order in the league’s top division, Tuckahoe edged the Tiger Sharks by two points and the Overlee Flying Fish by seven to claim the title.
But, despite a fourth-place team finish, it was new-kid-on-the-block McLean’s 13-14 boys who stole the show. Justin Nguyen, Christopher Murphy, Andrew Seliskar and Jack Saunders combined to shatter records in the 200 medley (1:57.90) and 200 freestyle relays (1:46.78).
“We weren’t sure if we could get the 200 relay record,” said Seliskar. “But we all dropped lots of time.”
The Marlins’ boys mixed age relay also established an NVSL mark (1:51.04).
Three of the top four division relay crowns were decided by two points or less, and the Division 14 event concluded with two teams – Village West and Little Hunting Park – deadlocked at 176 points, each claiming a share of the title.
The NVSL’s top 18 teams in each event qualified for the All-Star Relay Carnival to be held at Hayfield Farm Pool this upcoming Wednesday, July 20.
- Taylor Knight
Tags: Andrew Gibson, Andrew Seliskar, Ashleigh Ferguson, Ben Charles, Brian Rose, Chesterbrook, Christopher Murphy, Chuck Katis, Clay Miller, Diego Cruzado, Djordje Orcev, Emily Bolek, Highlands Swim, Hunter Mill, Jack Rose, Jack Saunders, Jayme Katis, Josh Nammo, Justin Nguyen, Katherine Richards, Lee-Graham, Little Hunting Park, Matthew Din, Mayu Ovando, McLean, MCSL Division B, NVSL, Overlee, Potomac Glen, Stephane de Cazotte, Thomas Finn, Tuckahoe, Village West, Westleigh, William Evans, Woodley Gardens, Zach Tripodi