If Mill Creek Towne‘s Caroline Clark needed a reminder of just how closely matched the top girls’ 15-18 50 fly swimmers in the Montgomery County Swim League‘s Division A are, the race in a July 9 dual meet against Tilden Woods provided it.
In a matchup of three of the league’s best, Mill Creek Towne’s Catherine Mulquin finished in 30.24 seconds to take the race. Clark and Tilden Woods’s Anna Epstein just off the pace, finished an instant later, recording matching 30.44 second times to tie for second.
“You can’t always tell quite where you are when you’re finishing,” Clark said. “When I tied Anna, we both popped up, heard our time and kind of looked at each other like, ‘Ok, cool’.”
If it’s possible for a race to get any closer than that, it may happen on Saturday at the divisional meet, which will be held at Upper County.
On a day sure to be full of tight races and some of the fastest times of the season, the girls’ 15-18 50 fly might be the most anticipated. Six of the league’s top ten in the event come from Division A, and they will come together in the top heat at Saturday’s event, where they’ll all be seeded with 0.70 seconds of each other.
After posting the best time in the league this season last Saturday at Rockville, Epstein (30.01 seconds) enters the race as the top seed, but there are plenty of other swimmers ready to challenge her. Bethesda‘s Anna Kolanowski and Reia Tong and Upper County’s Diana Hanson are expected to join Epstein, Mulquin and Clark in the event’s top heat.
The Upper County pool has a reputation for being fast, Clark said there’s little doubt the winner of the race will be under 30 seconds in the event. For the record, Danielle Schulkin (a Reach for the Wall contributor) holds the all-time league mark at 28.72, set at last season’s Division C divisional meet.
Clark noted that with more teammates screaming from the side of the pool and team points at stake, there’s an extra level of excitement that won’t be there when the top swimmers get together again on July 30 for the individual all-star meet.
The most pressure may be on the timers to make sure they can keep track of that many swimmers finishing nearly simultaneously. Tilden Woods Coach Jen Barnes joked that she wouldn’t be surprised with a finish reminiscent of the famous 2008 Olympic 100 fly race where Michael Phelps out-touched Milorad Cavic at the wall for the gold.
“Whoever is going to win will have to have a perfect swim — great start, turn, everything,” Barnes said. “They’re all so close that it’s anybody’s ball game, and they know that coming in.”
But that’s not the only race that could be decided in the final strokes. There are swimmers with tightly bunched seed times in events across the board. That includes the girls’ eight-and-under backstroke where all 12 competitors have achieved league all-star cut times this season.
Bethesda’s Leah Kannan, 8, enters the meet as the top seed in that event. Kannan placed third in the 25 back last season when she was the top seven-year-old finisher, and Kannan’s coach, Elizabeth Gutermann, calls her “an old pro” at swimming in big meets.
“She’s quiet, so it’s hard to tell when things are getting to her,” Gutermann said, “but she always stays calm and that really helps when the races are this close.”
Gutermann’s team hopes to finish in the top three at the meet to clinch the Barracuda’s first third-place finish in the division since joining the league’s most competitive division in 2006. Gutermann said she’s made her team well aware that only the top three squads walk away with a team trophy.
Those team dynamics only add to a meet in which nearly every race features at least a few — if not more — of the league’s best.
“When you see your whole team standing there and counting on you it helpsw you push through that extra 10 yards at the end,” Clark said. “They’re counting on you to pull it out, and that makes you want it even more.”
Pretty in Pink at Ashton
It has become an Ashton tradition to hold an intrasquad “Battle of the Sexes” event in place of a final MCSL B meet. On Wednesday, the Alligators added a new wrinkle to their fun ritual to help a cause close to the team.
In conjunction with its girls vs. boys battle in the pool, Ashton raised more than $4,000 through a Pretty In Pink Breast Cancer Fundraiser, which included food, a silent auction, raffles and a chance for swimmers to pie their favorite coaches in the face. Team officials held the fundraiser in honor of the team’s clerk of course, Patrice Kelly, who has been battling breast cancer.
The girls’ side won this year’s meet.
- Eric Detweiler, email@example.com
NVSL meets to watch
All too quickly, another NVSL season has nearly come to pass. But not before some of the most anticipated meets in recent league history.
How they got here: Both teams enter Saturday’s final dual meet with an unblemished, 4-0 record, having arrived by similar paths. Each has experienced its own nail-biter courtesy of Tuckahoe in consecutive weeks. For Chesterbrook, it was a Week 3 test in which the Tiger Sharks rode six out of a possible eight butterfly victories to recapture the lead for good, 209-193. Just one week later, Joan Mountain and Overlee found similar success using the same “backloaded” approach, albeit in much more dramatic fashion, pulling out an unexpected victory in the girls’ mixed age relay for the win, 205-197.
Outside their respective meets against Tuckahoe, both Chesterbrook and Overlee cruised, posting margins of victory greater than 100 points every other weekend.
Swimmers to watch: The Tiger Sharks have an outstanding performer in Andrew Bernstein, 8, who, despite being confined to a right wrist cast, ranks first in the NVSL in the 25 freestyle with a time of 15.84. The Outlaw family continues to strike fear in the eyes of opponents, as Christopher, 14, holds the league’s best mark in the 50 freestyle (25.74) while younger brother Thomas, 10, is fastest in the 25 fly (15.08).
The Flying Fish are led by a group of 13-14 girls, whose 1oo medley relay (59.98) is tops in the NVSL. Suzanne Dolan, 13 and at the bottom of the age group, posted a 36.21 in breaststroke to become the league’s fastest in the event.
Spoils: The Division 1 regular-season crown hangs in the balance. For Overlee, it would mean adding a league title to its All-Star Relays crown captured earlier this week. For Chesterbrook, a victory would mean defending the Division 1 crown it earned a season ago.
How they got here: In a hotly-contested Division 3, the fact that Vienna Woods and Vienna Aquatic have both emerged from the first four dual meets unscathed is remarkable. Even better is the storyline created by their season-ending, title-deciding Week 5 matchup. Vienna Aquatic overcame a Week 3 scare in which the Gators clung to a six point lead throughout the relays for a 204-198 victory.
Swimmers to watch: Jack Gailbraith, 11, has been a standout for VAC all season, topped the NVSL lists with a time of 31.70 in the 9-10 50 freestyle before aging up. Zachary Risseeuw, 10, of Vienna Woods swims a 31-high. Depending on the breakdown of points, a Risseeuw swim up at the 11-12 age group to challenge Galbraith could be interesting.
Spoils: The Division 3 crown and bragging rights are both on the line in this all-Vienna matchup.
How they got here: Both SSI and SSII have enjoyed a relatively comfortable path in reaching this meet – neither team won by less than 30 points over the course of the season - which has been highly anticipated since division seeds were announced. At Divisional Relays, the teams’ only close-quarters matchup thus far, SSII soundly defeated SSI as well as the rest of the division. If SSI is to win Saturday, this meet can’t be anywhere close heading into the relays.
Swimmers to watch: UNC Wilmington commit and Swim Ninja scholarship winner C.J. Fiala has been nothing short of outstanding all summer for Sully Station, posting the top freestyle mark so far (24.16) and leading his 200 freestyle relay to victory at All-Star Relays.
Faith Alston, 8, leads Sully Station II with NVSL-best 22.19 in the 25 breaststroke.
Spoils: The Division 5 title may be an afterthought as this neighborhood matchup has been touted all year.
- Taylor Knight
Tags: Anna Epstein, Anna Kolanowski, Ashton, Caroline Clark, Catherine Mulquin, Diana Hanson, Hanna Sun, Jen Barnes, Katherine Gould, Leah Kannan, Michael Phelps, Mill Creek Towne, Reia Tong, Tilden Woods