James Murphy, Megan Byrnes ready for high school pool

James Murphy, Megan Byrnes ready for high school pool

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Oakton swimmer Megan Byrnes
Oakton freshman Megan Byrnes swimming to a win in the girls' 500-yard freestyle in a quad meet at Oak Marr RECenter. (Bryan Flaherty/The Washington Post)

Two freshman stood out on the Oak Marr RECenter pool deck on Friday night amongst a sea of talent on display at a early season high school quad meet between Oakton, Robinson, Langley and James Madison.

Robinson’s James Murphy and Oakton’s Megan Byrnes were each double event winners for their respective teams, proving themselves ready to compete with the Northern Region’s best in their first high school season.

Murphy, 15, was tested in his individual events by two of Oakton’s top swimmers, winning by a combined margin of just 2.07 seconds to earn a pair of individual victories to go along with two relay wins for a perfect 4-for-4.

In the 200 freestyle, it took a 25.24 second split in his final 50 yards to pull away from Oakton senior Philip Hu, to win in 1 minute, 41.93 seconds to Hu’s 1 minute, 43.93 seconds. Murphy also claimed the 500 freestyle in 4:40.80 after another tight battle, this time with Oakton sophomore Nathan Pawlowicz who was second in 4:41.63.

Hu — who signed recently with the University of Pennsylvania — bounced back from his loss to win the 100 butterfly in 51.23.

Murphy leads a strong class of freshmen that includes James Jones, who finished second in the 50 free to Madison senior Evan Owens, 21.85 to 22.07, and in the 100 free to Madison’s Grayson Smith, 48.54 to 48.98, respectively.

“Last year we didn’t have much depth or talent,” said Robinson coach Philip Caslavka. “This year we have both. We want to win states and we have the team that could do it.”

Despite the quad meet format, the meets were scored as dual meets with Oakton’s boys edging Robinson 160.6 to 154.5. Madison rolled over Langley, 208.5 to 103.5.

In the girls’ meet, it was all Oakton, who won 201 to 114 over Robinson.

14-year-old Byrnes — one of the youngest Olympic Trials qualifiers this last summer at 13 years old — was a big part of the team’s success. She cruised in the girls’ 200 freestyle (1:56.54) and the 500 freestyle (5:01.95), outpacing the competition in both events by wide margins.

“Having a swimmer like Megan on the team is such a treat,” said Oakton head coach Parker Ramsdell. “She’s a tremendous talent that just adds to what we already have.”

Oakton’s AAA Virginia state championship girls’ team was far from lacking in talent already with swimmers like Laura Branton, Gillian Crews, Julia Capobianco, and last year’s All-Met Swimmer of the Year, Janet Hu, who holds records at the local, state and national levels in the freestyle, backstroke and butterfly events.

“Janet had a tremendous year last year as the swimmer of the year,” said coach Ramsdell. “She was a large part of [Oakton’s] first state title and our first repeat regional title. My job this year is making sure the right swimmers get in the right events.”

Hu was untouchable in both the 50 and 100 freestyle, winning both emphatically by a combined seven seconds. She was 22.88 in the 50 and 51.13 in the 100 — both times faster than the winning time at last year’s state championship.

Langley’s girls’ beat Madison 188 to 124, starting their campaign towards repeat district champs.

“We want to finish top five in region and top ten in the state this year,” said Langley coach Ryan Jackson. “If the juniors and sophomores who qualified for states last year, but didn’t make it back [for a second swim] can step up, we’ll be in good shape this year.”

Madison’s boy’s were strong across the board all night led by Owens and Smith.

“This meet was a great opportunity for our team to get some exposure to the other teams in the region that everyone always talks about,” said Madison coach Andrew Foos. “We’re in a good spot this year with a lot of talent on the boys side.”

Owens — winner in the 50 free — earned his second win of the night in the 100 breaststroke (59.80). Smith – winner of the 100 free — won the 100 backstroke (53.56) over Oakton’s Denny Nguyen (53.97) and Robinson’s Matt Jones (54.05).

Madison won the 200 freestyle relay and went 1-2 in the boys’ 200 IM with sophomore Ian Russiello claiming first (1:56.31), followed by senior Howe Wang (1:58.66).

Freshman teammate Grayson Campbell also chipped in on the board scoring 282.6 in the diving event as he dominated the field by a 64 point margin.


  1. Based on the summary, it’s hard to tell whether the Langley girls were swimming in the same pool last night.

  2. Langley won states the year before last, they always come out swinging, and Abi Spears is a beast. The author of the article is trying his best and frankly I am, as well as many others are grateful there is a website through the Wash Post that is dedicated to local/natl swimming.

  3. Doesn’t James Murphy swim in the summer at Little Rocky Run? If so, shouldn’t he be at Centreville and not Robinson? If that’s the case and I was the Centreville coach, I’d be one unhappy camper (especially since he’s the head coach at Little Rocky Run in the summer).

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