Entering Saturday’s NVSL Division 2 championship, Highlands’ Chuck Katis had his eyes set on Ed Moses’ 13-year-old league record, a blazing 28.81. Katis’ teammates came to life just before their senior’s swim, and it was enough – almost. Pushed by Fairfax Station’s Ricky Munch and Bo Ilgenfritz, Katis, who will swim for Harvard next year, clocked the fastest swim of his summer career.
Left to right, the timers spun the numbers on the time board. First, a “2”, then an “8”, already a best time for Katis, who had never broken the 29-second barrier before. As the timer slowly spun the next number into place, the murmurs around the deck became noticeably louder, the anticipation wearing on the spectators just as much as Katis.
Small cheers erupted around the deck.
In a way, it felt like a late-night lottery announcement – the first three numbers hit, leaving only the powerball.
But then, the timer, abruptly and anti-climatically, stepped away from the board, leaving the final number unchanged.
There were groans from spectators, but the smile was wiped from Katis’ face only momentarily.
“I’m not going to be mad,” said Katis. “Getting under 29 (seconds) was a great milestone for me…I’m happy to be close to that great of a swimmer (in Moses).”
Just a short while later, Katis got redemption in the 15-18 100 IM. The Highlands Swim senior led the race from wall-to-wall but took particular advantage of the breaststroke and freestyle legs to build an untouchable cushion. And when the timers posted Katis’ mark this time, there was no question – 57.30, breaking the 2009 record of Hunter Mill’s Sean Fletcher.
Katis, who is friends with Fletcher, said: “That kind of made up for (missing the breaststroke record).
Katis, who originally expected to miss All-Stars in order to race at Junior Nationals, will have one last shot as Moses’ record next weekend after finding a later flight.
Inspired by her brother’s race, Jayme Katis took command of the 15-18 girls IM out of lane 5, winning by a comfortable margin (1:06.57). After the race, she exchanged congratulations with future Virginia Tech teammate Natalie Leake, who finished third in adjacent lane 4.
“I knew that our heat was going to be pretty good,” said Jayme. “Katie Munch, Natalie Leake, they’re all really good breaststrokers. So I knew I had to get out first.”
It was another hot Saturday morning in Northern Virginia. But swimmers waiting in the Clerk of Course, conveniently located in the shade of a stand of pine trees, escaped the early morning sun – if only momentarily – before stepping up to race. A gracious host, Lee-Graham also erected a number of easy-up tents over appreciative parents and spectators.
Swimmers also enjoyed the extra benefit of a – albeit trapezoidal – warmup pool.
And while Katis’ breaststroke was arguably the most dramatic race of the morning, countless other events provided plenty of excitement.
Lee-Graham’s Elena Summers, 11, was flanked by Little Rocky Run’s Elizabeth Murphy and Carly Grecco as she stepped up for the 11-12 breaststroke. Murphy took the early lead on a strong dive and pullout, but the taller Summers made better use of the wall at the turn, leading the entire second lap to win (38.38). Grecco eventually finished second and Murphy third.
In perhaps the closest race of the morning, Highlands’ Claire Collins and Little Rocky Run’s Logan Ross raced to within .01 seconds of one another in the 13-14 girls breaststroke. While Collins used a more aggressive, pressing stroke, Ross opted for a more smooth, shallow version. Ross (36.69) pulled even after the turn, but Collins refused to be beaten, slightly leading Ross over the second half to win (36.68).
After a short break, the action returned with butterfly.
In the 11-12 girls event, Fairfax’s Anna Ober powered along underwater for almost half of her first length, but came up behind. Once she broke the surface, however, it was all over. Ober quickly surged ahead of the field to lead into the turn and the remainder of the race (32.78).
In a scary moment, Hunter Mill’s Rebecca Grundhal was unable to finish her 13-14 butterfly due to an undetermined, but apparently respitory-related, medical problem serious enough to prompt Lee-Graham parent Lisa Leake and a lifeguard to jump into the pool fully-clothed to provide assistance. After several minutes, Grundahl, fortunately swimming close to the wall in lane 6, was moved out of the water and then walked under the clubhouse, aided by Lee-Graham head coach Mile Cook. Later, a Fairfax County fire truck and ambulance arrived to provide further medical attention, departing after 15 minutes.
Usually, stroke deficiencies become extremely evident in IM, and even more so among younger swimmers. Either Hunter Mills’ Katie Mack doesn’t have those weaknesses, or she hid them well Saturday. Mack built or maintained her lead over each of the four strokes, ultimately winning by half a pool (1:26.18).
It was a solid day of work for Little Rocky Run’s James Murphy, who won both the 13-14 IM and freestyle.
Murphy opened up a lead early in IM but gave up some room to Lee-Graham’s Miller Surette on the breaststroke leg, but a half-body-length lead was more than enough for Murphy (1:04.31), who held the NVSL’s best freestyle time for much of the season. His mark was a second-and-a-half better this his team record posted earlier this season.
“I knew (Surette) is a breaststroker and he went a 33 today so I knew he was he on,” said Murphy. “I knew I just had to get ahead of him in the backstroke and the fly, so that’s what I tried to do.”
Later, in a stacked 13-14 boys freestyle, Murphy again swam to the front of pack, posting a time of 25.77 to better his own Little Rocky Run record by .13 seconds and take the division title.
The boys 9-10 freestyle materialized as expected with Diego Cruzado of Highlands and James Frucht of Hunter Mill pacing the pack from the start while the rest fanned out behind. Frucht (32.33) held onto Cruzado’s hip for the duration but couldn’t overcome Highlands’ top 10 year old (32.04).
The highlight of backstroke came out of the 15-18 boys race in which Lee-Graham teammates Freddy Crawford and Lucas Cherry went head-to-head as the top two seeds. Cherry, the Lee-Graham record holder in the event, lowered his team-best time by nearly half a second. But Crawford was even faster, posting a new mark of 27.90 in victory.
NVSL records fall
In other divisionals action around the league, a number of NVSL all-time bests were broken. Cassidy Bayer of Mount Vernon Park, the Division 3 sportsmanship awardee, broke her own record in the 11-12 butterfly.
Mosby Woods’ Janet Hu, who has been on a tear all season as just a 15 year old, lowered the 15-18 girls butterfly standard to 27.95. The previous mark – 28.26 – was posted in 2010 by Poplar Tree’s Elizabeth Hall.
Andrew Seliskar of McLean went two-for-two in record-setting swims. First, he threw down a 26.40 in the 13-14 boys butterfly to break a Sean Fletcher-record. Seliskar then went on to crush a 1999 league-best in IM, setting the new NVSL mark at 1:00.29.