Gonzaga enters this week’s championship meets as one of the hottest teams in the area, coming off wins at the National Catholic and WMPSSDL championship meets. They will be tested this weekend at the Washington Metropolitan Interscholastic Swimming & Diving Championship. The Metros finals are Saturday, Feb. 11 at the Germantown Indoor Swim Center, where the best teams from Montgomery County, WMPSSDL, and DCIAA come together for one of the best collections of high school talent in on the East Coast.
Last week Churchill’s girls’ team was able to knock off Whitman and Wootton, largely due to the Bulldogs dominant divers. However, this week, every team will be able to enter a fourth athlete in every event, giving a deep Whitman team the slight advantage at Metros against their MCPS rivals.
Whitman hopes to take big points in the two girls’ freestyle relays, where they are currently seeded first. With swimmers Reia Tong, Audrey Gould, Sarah Kannan, and Charlotte Meyer, it is hard not to favor the Vikings relays, although Churchill, Good Counsel, and a Caroline McTaggart-led Holton-Arms will certainly challenge for first in whatever relay they place their superstars.
In the boys’ meet, Gonzaga will contend with MCPS Division I champion Walter Johnson for the title. But the Eagles will need to move up in the relay events if they hope to challenge Gonzaga’s very deep, very talented group.
Walter Johnson’s boys’ have something to prove in the freestyle relays, where they’ll be anchored by Garrett Powell — headed to the University of Georgia next year — and junior Barry Mangold. But a loaded Gonzaga team will certainly have other plans. They are led by a one of the best groups of upperclassmen in the area, including sprinter Sean Sullivan (UNC-Chapel hill).
Good Counsel will also be in the mix. Last week, Jack Conger‘s brilliant performances secured Good Counsel the top seed in both the boys’ 200 medley and 400 freestyle relays.
The individual races will be no less thrilling than the relay events, with an all-star cast set to take to the water. With the notable absence of Katie Ledecky, the girls’ 200 and 500 freestyle events will be wide open.
Churchill’s Natalya Ares (University of Richmond*) leads all challengers in the girls’ 200 freestyle, where she is the top seed at 1:52.35, against sophomore Kannan (1:53.87), Sherwood junior Anna Kolanowski (1:54.34), Gould (1:54.59), Wootton sophomore Kristina Li (1:54.75), Kannan’s teammate, freshman Elaina Gu (1:55.38), and senior Ellen Anderson with a 1:55.46. Ares has the edge in what will be a Montgomery County dominated final.
Ares was just off Danielle Schulkin’s record of 55.07 in the girs’ 100 butterfly last year at Metros. She is again the top-seed heading into prelims with a time of 55.31. But do not count out junior Sophie Pietrantonio (Maret), senior Anna Epstein (Sidwell Friends), who, when rested, have the speed to hang with Ares.
In the girls’ 500 freestyle, Anderson (Gaithersburg) — heading to Northwestern — holds the top position with a 5:00.23. Just behind her, with a 5:04.94, sits Whitman’s Lauren Levy (Brown University*), and Makenzie Miller (Good Counsel) with a 5:08.36. As they meet for the first time this season, they should push each other during the 20 length race. Freshman Gu, could also get in the mix if she has a good race, seeded fourth with a 5:08.73.
A race no one is going to want to miss will be the girls’ 200 IM, between Good Counsel senior Sarah Haase (1:59.97), who signed with Stanford University, and junior Charlotte Meyer (Whitman), seeded second with a 2:02.81. Meyer will need a sizable lead at the half way point to steal this race from Haase. Haase is one of the most dominant breaststrokers in recent memory. She is the runaway favorite in the girls’ 100 breaststroke, seeded first by nearly five seconds with a 1:00.44. Last year she broke her sister Colleen Haase’s record in the event.
Meyer will also contend for the 100 backstroke title against Holy Cross standout Ashleigh Ferguson, who is seeded first with a 55.48. Meyer’s is second with a 57.29, just ahead of Li, who is undefeated in the backstroke event this season with a seed time of 57.49.
In the sprint events, Holtan-Arms freshman McTaggart is expected to continue her reign as the top sprinter on the north bank of the Potomac. Fresh off breaking two league records last weekend at WMPSSDL Championships, it is hard to imagine anyone catching McTaggart, seeded first in the 50 freestyle in 23.07 and in the 100 freestyle in 49.99.
The race for second should be tight between seniors Tong (Whitman), Morgan Whyte (St. John’s), Ferguson (Holy Cross), and Victoria Kuhn (Whitman). All four seniors will be swimming for NCAA programs next year. Tong for Brown, Whyte for Delaware, Ferguson for South Carolina, and Kuhn for Cornell.
In the boys’ individual events, its hard not to be excited about watching area star, Jack Conger, taking on Gonzaga’s Sean Sullivan and Garrett Powell in their own events.
In the boys’ 50 freestyle, top seed Sullivan (20.68) and second seed Conger (21.24) will face off. Conger holds the Metros record with a 20.56, set in 2010.
Conger’s biggest challenge will come in the 500 freestyle against distance specialist Powell, an Olympic Trials qualifier in the 1500-meter freestyle. Powell is the top seed in 4:29.12, but Conger is not too far back with a 4:33.25. This should certainly be a fun race to watch, with an even more exciting finish.
Before his showdown with Conger, Powell should dominate the boys’ 200 freestyle, seeded 1:41.96.
Sean Sullivan is also the top seed in the boys’ 100 freestyle (46.54), ahead of juniors Mangold and Austin Cole (Churchill), seeded 47.19 and 47.35, respectively.
Boys 100 breaststroke is an absolute toss up. Austin Dickey (Wootton) leads the way, quickly followed by Fletcher Tollefson (Walter Johnson), freshman Carsten Vissering (Georgetown Prep), Leo Mercer (Good Counsel), Michael Fu (Wootton), and Harrison Gu (Churchill), all under one-minute. This event continues to be one of the most fiercely contested events this season. The top six seeds are all under one-minute, divided by just .62 seconds; the top ten are all under 1:01; and the top 14 are under 1:02.
Also watch for Georgetown Prep senior Carl St. John to pick up big wins for the Little Hoyas in the boys’ 200 IM (1:54.66) and 100 butterfly (51.99), as well as Gonzaga senior Tim Barry in the boys’ 100 backstroke (52.83). St. John is committed to swim at Cornell next year, while Barry will be headed to Loyola University Maryland.
*Athletes committed to swim for the listed university next year.