A little over a week after the conclusion of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, area representatives to Trials traded the flashing lights and pyrotechnics of the CenturyLink Center in Omaha for the outdoor pool at the Rockville Municipal Swim Center to compete in the MCSL Coaches’ Invitational Long Course meet on Tuesday night.
Five of the MCSL’s Olympic Trials participants were recognized as they stepped onto the blocks for their heats, including Jack Conger (Flower Valley), who returns to the league as a celebrity after the rising Good Counsel senior finished fifth in the 200-meter backstroke and eighth in the 100 backstroke at Trials.
“I love coming back [to the MCSL],” said Conger in between signing autographs on meet programs. “This is where it all began for me.”
Spectators and swimmers alike stayed past their events to watch the 17-year-old star swim his final event and it was worth braving the ominous weather creeping into the area. Conger put on a clinic in the boys’ 15-18 100 butterfly, staying underwater well beyond his competitors to build a sizable lead before he ever took a stroke.
When he did breach the surface, it was a one man show for the next 85 meters. Off the second wall, Jack Foster and Graham Baird, the eventual second and third place finishers, took three complete strokes before Conger finished his underwater kicks. Conger’s lead would build from there, finishing an incredible 4.72 seconds ahead of the runner-up.
Conger began his night in the same way he ended it, taking down a four-year-old record by nearly three seconds.
In the boys’ 15-18 200 backstroke, Conger shattered the 2008 record set by Brady Fox — a U-Va. standout and two-time Olympic Trials qualifier — by over three seconds for a new time of 2:01.04. Conger swam next to his RMSC teammate and Trials participant, Garrett Powell (Tilden Woods), who finished 18th in the event at Trials. Powell also finished first in the 200 freestyle earlier in the night.
“It means so much to have everyone cheering me on,” Conger said. “I only have another year of this. I would never give this up.”
It is understandable why, with an impressive crowd for a Tuesday night swim meet, the meet was a jovial affair with parents and swimmers from every team cheering each other on from start to finish.
“This is the social meet of the season,” said Country Glen Coach Geoff Schaefer, who also coaches at Whitman High School, as he roved the deck handing out high fives to swimmers and coaches from teams he coaches for and against in both season. “It’s great to see every one here each year having fun and swimming fast. It’s what the league is about.”
While the senior swimmers may have collected the most anticipation, it was 8-year-old Jill Berger (Little Falls), undeterred by the added distance of the long course pool, who set the first record of the evening in the girls’ 8 & under 50-meter freestyle, eclipsing the previous mark by .02 seconds.
Berger used her whirlwind stroke to propel her small frame across the long course pool well ahead of her competition, bringing the crowd to their feet to cheer her on to the finish. Her time of 34.43 was 1.8 seconds ahead of second place. She later won the 50 butterfly in 38.82 with a immense 5.67 second gap between her and second place.
A few events later, Sanjay Wijeskera (Rockville) crushed the boys’ 11-12 100 freestyle by nearly a second with a new time of 59.05, becoming the first 12 & under to go below the one minute mark in the league. Wijeskera earned a second record during the butterfly events, winning the 100 butterfly in 1:06.31,
shaving .77 seconds off 2012 Metro champion Grant Goddard‘s 2009 record.
Rounding out the night’s record-breaking performances were Emily Wang (Upper County) and Hannah Lindsey (Regency Estates). Wang broke a 12-year-old record in the girls’ 11-12 100 backstroke, lowering the mark to 1:09.27. She was 3.5 seconds ahead of second place. Lindsey broke Megan Waters 2004 record in the girls’ 13-14 100 backstroke with a time of 1:06.47. Lindsey also won the 13-14 200 IM.
Jonathan Ekstrom (Rock Creek) also had a great performance in the boys’ 15-18 200 IM, just missing the record held by MCSL legend Mike Barrowman — 1992 Olympic gold medalist — since 1986 by .63 seconds.
Charlotte Meyer (Carderock Springs) — another member of RMSC’s Trials team — also narrowly missed the record in the girls’ 15-18 200 IM. The record is held by her Trials’ teammate Sarah Haase (Flower Valley), who will not be returning to finish her final MCSL season before enrolling at Stanford in the fall. She will have another year to break that record and the 200 backstroke record, which she also finished by less than a second.
Other standout performances came from Daniel Yook (Rockshire) in the boys’ 13-14 200 IM (2:17.82), Talia Moss (River Falls) in the girls’ 9-10 50 breaststroke (38.99), Noah Garvey (Woodcliffe) in the boys’ 11-12 100 breaststroke (1:16.44), Jaycee Yegher (Darnestown) in the girls’ 13-14 100 breaststroke (1:15.20), and Carsten Vissering (Old Georgetown) in the boys’ 15-18 200 breaststroke (2:25.05).