Late Sunday night, 50 or so age groupers sat waiting to enter the water at the Fairland Aquatic Center in Laurel. The stands were slowly emptying. The coaches were on their last legs, sweat droplets common on many of their brows. But the last two heats of the PVS Long Course 14 & Under Age Group Championships stood behind the blocks preparing for a particularly daunting event: the 800-meter freestyle relay. Exhausted and battered from four days of toil in the sometimes 100-plus degree conditions, everyone was almost done with the marathon meet.
But four 11-12 year-old girls smiled and chattered amongst themselves before racing in the 14 & Under 800-meter freestyle relay. Isabella Rongione (11), Joanne Fu (12), Michelle Owens (12), and Emily Meilus (12) of FISH placed second — coming in only eight-tenths of a second behind Curl-Burke’s much older and more seasoned team.
Both training partners and competitors, the four girls swim in FISH’s “serious, focused training group for athletes who have high goals and high aspirations,” according to Coach Ray Benecki.
The young swimmers certainly proved their worth this past weekend.
On Saturday, a day most of the athletes generally take off to swim with their summer leagues, Meilus swam the 14 & under 400-meter IM, 11-12 400-meter free, and the 14 & under 1500 – back to back to back. She won the mile, her last event, with an 18:27.04, beating her field by 17 seconds. Meilus also won the 14 & under 800-meter freestyle and the 12 & under 200-meter backstroke.
“It was definitely a success,” Meilus said of her performance this weekend.
Her 11 year-old teammate Isabella Rongione also swam that Saturday afternoon, winning the 14 & under 400-meter IM. The day before, Rongione broke Janet Hu’s PVS Resident Record in the 11-12 200-meter fly, winning with a 2:26.92. She will swim the event next year as a 12 year-old.
More of Hu’s records fell to both Megan Byrnes (12) and Lea Gwennap (12) of Curl-Burke. Gwennap broke Hu’s record in the 11-12 200-meter IM, racing to the wall in 2:25.31. Gwennap also won the 11-12 100-meter free, 200-meter I.M., 50-meter back, and 50-meter free. Byrnes topped Hu’s 11-12 200-meter freestyle record with a time of 2:08.76, breaking both the PVS Resident and Open records. Byrnes also won the 11-12 400-meter freestyle (4:29.30) with a time that would have won the 13-14 400-meter freestyle the day before.
Video: Curl-Burke’s Cassidy Bayer wins the 11-12 girls’ 100-meter butterfly.
Other repeat winners include 10 year-old Sinead Eksteen (10 & under 200 IM, 100 free, 50 back, 200 free and 100 back), 12 year-old Jaycee Yegher (11-12 50 breast, 100 breast and 200 breast) and 14 year-old Caroline McTaggart (50, 100, 200 freestyle).
“I’m exhausted from everything. I just want to go home,” RMSC’s Yegher sighed, happy but tired from her races at the end of the night.
A hot and humid environment marked this year’s Age Group Championships. With indoor temperatures in the 90s, there was little relief from the sticky weather outside.
“Everybody would have been faster if Age Group Champs were held in better conditions,” Benecki said on Sunday night. “It’s hard enough coaching in these conditions with the humidity and the heat. I can imagine how hard it is for the athletes to swim!”
Coaches and athletes took precautions. Large fans were stationed in several corners. RMSC’s Dave Crocker even brought a hose mister for his athletes. There was a constant rippling wave of heat sheets in the stands, as dedicated parents tried to cool off.
The officials put in several long days, working 16 hours on Thursday, 15 hours on Friday, six hours on Saturday, and then finally 14 hours on Sunday. Without breaks.
Among those was meet referee Art Davis, who lost his voice by Sunday night thanks to the chlorine. Davis, who did not have any children in the meet, reported allergy-like symptoms from being at the pool. But, nevertheless, he enjoys this type of work.
“I find it relaxing. The crazier it is, the more relaxing it is, and that’s the truth,” Davis croaked.
– By Danielle Schulkin
CUBU Boys: 3 Records, 1 Day
On the boys’ side, no relay record was safe. Five male Potomac Valley resident and open relay records in three different age groups fell at the Fairland Aquatics Center this weekend.
The Curl-Burke 13-14 boys went three for three on the final day of the meet, breaking resident and open records in the 200-meter freestyle relay, the 400-meter medley relay and the 800-meter freestyle relay.
In the medley, the Curl-Burke team of Andrew Seliskar, Carsten Vissering, Graham Baird and Owen von Krimpen broke the resident and open record by 5.39 seconds. The RMSC boys finished second in the event but also posted a time faster than the previous record.
Similarly, in the 800-meter freestyle relay, the Curl-Burke A-team (Seliskar, Brian Tsau, Vissering, Baird) shattered the resident and open record by 11.09 seconds before Curl-Burke’s B-team also finished under the previous mark.
“After four days of waking up at 5 in the morning and going to bed at 10, I think it was a pretty good swim to end the meet,” said Carsten Vissering after the 800 freestyle relay, the final event of the weekend. On Friday, Vissering had set a new LSC standard in the 100-meter breaststroke with a time of 1:07.82.
Ten year-old Timmy Ellett also had a banner weekend. Ellett won all six of his individual events and helped RMSC to two victories in the 10 & under boys’ 200-meter freestyle and medley relays. On Sunday his time of 29.94 in the 50-meter freestyle surpassed Sean Stewart’s 2001 PVS resident record.
“Timmy loves to race himself and the clock, and he just goes out there and hammers away,” said Ellett’s coach, Dave Crocker. “For him to step up like that at 10 years-old, it’s pretty cool.”
Video: RMSC’s Timmy Ellett breaks PVS resident record in the 10 & under boys’ 50-meter freestyle.
Rockville-Montgomery 12 year-old Devin Truong continued his record-setting streak with a resident and open record in the 12 & under boys’ 200-meter breaststroke with a time of 2:36.61. Truong won five individual events, and he swam breaststroke for RMSC’s resident and open record-setting 11-12 boys’ 400-meter medley relay team (Matthew Tiberino, Truong, Thomas Brown de Colstoun, Sanjay Wijesekera).
In the 13-14 boys’ 50- and 100-meter freestyle, Curl-Burke teammates Andrew Seliskar (14) and Graham Baird (14) placed first and second, respectively. The two headed into the finals of the 100-meter freestyle separated by one-hundredth of a second. “Because we were both about the same time at prelims, we really wanted to push each other and get the 1-2 for the team,” Seliskar said after the finals. Seliskar shaved a full second off his prelims time to capture the event in 54.86.
In addition to his sprint victories, Seliskar won the 200-meter individual medley. Baird placed first in the 200-meter freestyle and the 100-meter butterfly. Andrew Gibson (14) of RMSC swept the two backstroke events while Carsten Vissering swept the breaststroke events. Curl-Burke’s Brian Tsau (14) won the 400-, 800- and 1500-meter freestyle.
The RMSC boys took all three individual high point awards. Timmy Ellett scored 120 points in the 10 & under age group while Devin Truong scored 117 points in the 11-12 division. Gregory Song (14) captured the 13-14 boys’ high point award with 108 points.
– By Michael Ledecky