The years that followed the 2008 Summer Olympics saw records stagnate following the high-tech suit ban, scandal in the coaching world, and the sport's biggest star, Michael Phelps, step out of the spotlight after his remarkable eight gold medal run.
But swimming revved up the year before the 2012 Summer Olympics, again drawing the attention of fans beyond its immediate circle of swimmers, parents, and coaches.
Ryan Lochte took down the first world record in the post-super-suits era. Sixteen-year-old phenom Missy Franklin stepped out as a contender for Olympic gold. Swim suit manufactures unveiled their newest textile speed-suits. And gold medalist breaststrokers Brendan Hansen and Ed Moses ended their retirements in hopes of tasting Olympic glory one last time.
The DC, Va., and Md. metro areas saw their own swimmers making headlines locally and nationally. Let's look back at RFTW's top stories of 2011.
1. November 14 – Katie Ledecky shines at National Age Group Team Challenge
In a meet stacked with nationally ranked age group swimmers, 14-year old Kate Ledecky smashed two 13-14 National Age Group yards records at the 5th Annual National Age Group Team Challenge. Ledecky now finds herself in an elite category of American distance freestylers heading into 2012.
2. February 27 – Whitman girls repeat at metros; Gonzaga boys victorious
On a night when six meet records fell, depth proved to be the deciding factor for both the Whitman girls and the Gonzaga boys. The Purple Eagles won just one individual event and one relay but picked up enough points to capture their first Metros title since 2003. Whitman used nine top-five finishes to pile up enough points to pull away from Good Counsel and Churchill.
3. February 19 – Langley girls, Westfield boys win Va. AAA titles
After finishing in second place in district, regional and state competition last year, Langley senior Jayme Katis wrote on her team captain application that the Saxons would win region and state titles this winter. The team outdid that forecast, taking Liberty District and Northern Region titles on their way to the Va. AAA state title.
4. March 22 – Locals shine at Junior Nationals; Curl-Burke wins
In a testament to the hotbed of swimming talent that is the greater Washington region, Curl-Burke Swim Club, a m
ember of Potomac Valley Swimming, brought home the boys’ title as well as the combined team crown.
On the eve of the early signing period for NCAA National Letters of Intent, three area high school swimmers — verbally committed to swim for the University of Maryland next year — were contacted by the school’s athletic department and told that Maryland would not be sending out letters to swimming recruits, and they should pursue offers from other institutions.
6. July 13 – Recap: MCSL Coaches Long Course Meet
With clear skies and large crowds lining the 50-meter Olympic-sized pool, nine records were broken and two Olympic Trials cuts were achieved at the MCSL Coaches Long Course meet at Rockville Swim Center.
7. February 19 – Churchill boys, Whitman girls take MCPS titles
Churchill's boys team mounted a comeback after trailing early in the MCPS championship meet to beat defending champion Wootton. Sparked by dominant performances in both freestyle relays, the Whitman girls went on to claim a second consecutive championship.
8. July 7 – Joe Pascale: a swimmer and a fighter
Last summer at the 2010 Senior Nationals, Joe Pascale made his first Olympic Trials cut in the 50 meter freestyle with a time of 23.20 seconds. He attributes his recent success in the water to a swimming regimen supplemented with mixed martial arts.
9. August 8 – McLean, Conger impress at Nationals
Matt McLean broke Tom Dolan’s 1996 Potomac Valley Swimming resident record in the 400 freestyle. The former All-Met from Potomac Falls produced the second-fastest time in the event for an American this year. Jack Conger breaks 15-16 year-old NAG record.
10. January 19 – “The Magic of Miracles”
In the summer of 2010, Chuck Katis (current Harvard swimmer) and twin sister Jayme founded a non-profit organization, which they named The Magic of Miracles, to bring wonder and joy to the lives of young cancer patients receiving treatment at local hospitals
11. December 12 – Records tumble at Tom Dolan Invitational
The year ended with a record setting meet held at the beautiful University of Maryland Eppley Center. The PVS record books were rewritten over the four day meet, including several National Age Group records.