As we head into the first weekend of championship meets, there is one team on every body’s lips in northern Virginia. That juggernaut is Woodson, who have returned one of the best classes of seniors in the area, and were bolstered by and influx of talented freshmen on both girls’ and boys’ sides.
The Cavalier boys’ team should have no problem repeating as Patriot District champions this weekend, Jan. 26-28, at Lee District RECenter, on their way to showdown with powerhouses Cox, Oakton, and Osbourn Park at the Va. AAA state championship meet, Feb. 17-18, at George Mason University, in Fairfax.
Woodson’s girl’s team will have a slightly tougher time winning this year’s Patriot District crown, with a strong West Springfield squad looking for payback after the Cavaliers ended their perfect season early this month. Also in the mix will be a hungry Lake Braddock and the reigning girls’ district champion, South County Stallions.
“No one saw South County’s girls coming out and swimming as well as they did last year” said Lake Braddock coach Scott Darwin. “It is going to be one of the most competitive women’s meets I can ever remember. Woodson, West Springfield, West Potomac, South County, and Lake Braddock all have at least one swimmer seeded first, and no school has more than two number-one seeds.”
Woodson, West Potomac, and West Springfield each have a relay seeded first, but every relay is up for grabs, and will be largely determined by where teams decide to stack their stars.
The Cavaliers will be sure to start the championship meet off on the right foot, with help from senior diver Samantha Eldridge, who is slotted number one going into Thursday’s dive events.
Once Friday night’s swimming prelims begin, the Patriot District talent will be on full display. Every team has swimmers who can step up and score big points in every race. Where those other swimmers place on Saturday night will play a major role in the outcome between Woodson and West Springfield.
If Woodson wants to hold off the Spartan ladies, they’ll need big races from freshman Leah Rogers and her sister, senior Rachel Rogers. Both will swim the 200 IM for the Cavaliers. Leah is seeded fourth with a time of 2:13.55, behind South County’s Brooke Malone (2:12.27), TC Williams’ Abigail Cox (2:13.04),and West Potomac’s Sara Bertram (2:13.07). Rachel is seeded sixth (2:16.78), behind MacKenzie Walsh (2:16.31) from South County.
L. Rogers over swim will come in the 100 butterfly (58.70) where she is slated first. Her sister Rachel is the third-seed in the 100 breaststroke (1:09.09), behind state qualifiers Malone (1:07.46) and Lake Braddock’s Sophie Chase (1:07.72).
Rachel Ward, the other half of Woodson’s sensational freshman duo, is seeded fifth in the 100 freestyle (56.31) and sixth in the 50 freestyle (25.74). But she’ll have a tough time moving up against the Patriot District’s best sprinters.
Freshman Robyn Dryer (West Springfield) has dominated all season, and leads the district in the 100 freestyle (53.95) and 200 freestyle (1:57.95). Along with Ward, she’ll face West Potomac’s Hellen Moffitt in the 100 freestyle. Moffitt has the top-end speed to beat Dryer in the 100 freestyle, where she is currently seeded eighth (57.49).
In the 200 freestyle, expect Moffitt to be a lot quicker than her 1:57.95 seed time. The Wolverine’s junior is an Olympic Trials qualifier in the 100 backstroke. Alyssa McGarry (Lake Braddock) is also a threat, despite her 2:01.62. McGarry is the breakaway favorite 500 freestyle (5:15.65) as well, seeded nearly 20 seconds ahead of West Springfield’s Mady Sieracki (5:34.90) and Kimberly Kellogg (3:38.90).
“West Springfield has more depth at the top than we do,” said Woodson coach Brian Dufour. “Our team has to swim well on Friday night and get to those ‘A’ finals. The meet will close.”
The meet may not be so close on the boys’ side, where Woodson is expected to run away with the meet. West Springfield is solidly in second place, with the battle for third taking place between South County, Annandale, and Lake Braddock.
“It will be interesting to see how the district turns out this year with the competitiveness from first through fifth. it will be the first time in two years the meet will be a two day meet. It has been shortened for weather the last two years,” added Lake Braddock coach Scott Darwin.
Woodson is stacked in diving, holding the top two spots in the district, as well as the fourth and sixth seeds. Ben Schiesl and Eric Pavord lead the way, aided by Matt Hubbard and Declan Casey. Hubbard is the lone sophomore in this dominant group of freshmen boys.
On the swimming side, Woodson showcases its experience with a premier group of seniors, led by Bo Ilgenfritz, Nathan Pease, Alex Saffran, Colin Chartier, Eric Chestnut, and Dean Furst. They’ve led Woodson to a first seed in the 400 freestyle relay, and second seeds in the 200 medley and 200 freestyle relay, each behind West Springfield’s boys. They hope to lead the Cavaliers to their third consecutive boys’ Patriot District Championship, with sites on regional and states titles as well.
Individually, they will get plenty of competition from the rest of the district.
Ilgenfritz is the top seed in two events. In the 100 breaststroke, his only challenge comes from teammate Pease, seeded 59.46 and 1:01.29, respectively. He’ll have a much tighter race in the 200 IM where he is seed with a 2:02.31, just in front of Lake Braddock freshman Cole McGarry (2:03.96) and Woodson teammate Saffran (2:04.12).
McGarry will be chasing the Cavaliers all night. He is seeded third with a 54.06, behind junior star Jesse Kane in the 100 butterfly, seeded second with a 53.95, and senior Michael Herrmann (South County), seeded first with a 52.14. Chestnut follows in fourth (54.13), Colin Stephenson (54.26) and Jake Dickens (54.74) in fifth and sixth for the Spartans, with Michael Valceanu (West Potomac) seeded seventh, but certainly not out of the race, with a 55.31.
Herrmann’s South County teammate Evin Rude leads the way in the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:46.89. He is followed by West Springfield’s Sean Mayer in 1:48.98 and Chartier in 1:50.74, in what should be a fast ‘A’ final. Rude is also the heavy favorite in the 500 freestyle, where he is the top seed by nearly 20 seconds, with a 4:50.87. Chartier is in second with a 5:10.58.
West Springfield shows off the depth of its sprinters in the 50 freestyle, seeded one, two. Jacob Anderson leads the way with a 21.77, followed by Matthew Garstka and Woodson’s Kane tied for the second with a 22.66.
Garstka will battle Woodson sophomore James Chung in the 100 freestyle. Garstka earned the top seed with a 49.40, followed by Chung with a 50.27, Garstka’s teammates Anderson (50.47) and Michael Speer (50.94), South County’s Alex Martin (51.00), and Woodson’s Furst (51.12) in a race that can be won or lost by a bad start or turn.
Herrmann, Mayer, and Saffran are spaced out in the 100 backstroke. Herrmann leads the way with a 52.88; Mayer in second with a 54.08; Saffran in third with a 56.33. While Herrmann might be too fast to catch, Mayer and Saffran should not overlook Annandale’s Daniel Jessen, just off the back with a 57.87. Saffran’s teammate Chung rounds out the top five with a 58.38.
The talented group of boys Woodson and West Springfield bring to the meet will make it exceedingly difficult for South County, Annandale, and Lake Braddock to get their boys into final heats, making it even more crucial for their super stars to step up and score big points to balance their ‘B’ finalists.
If South County can steal a relay from either Woodson or West Springfield, they could seal a third place finish ahead of Annandale and Lake Braddock. Expect a close results regardless of the order.
For the complete Patriot District Championship psych sheet click here.
Read more about the 2012 High School Championship meet season here.