Churchill’s girls squad is off to a strong start this season, building off of their team’s two point victory over county rival Whitman at Metros last year. They moved to 2-0 on the season after beating Walter Johnson (1-1), 110 to 61, at the Germantown Indoor Swim Center.
The Bulldogs excelled behind the efforts of a talented group of underclassmen, including the area’s best diver, Kali Becker.
Becker, a sophomore, leads a dominant Churchill diving core that returns three scorers from last year’s Metros team.
Becker — the reigning Metros and Maryland state diving champion — has been an infectious personality on deck and a stalwart on the boards in her first two high school seasons, earning first team All-Met honors as a freshman.
“She is always right there with a smile on her face,” said Churchill head coach Brendan Roddy.
“I love being with the swimmers and the other divers,” said Becker. “We’re all cheering for each other to beat our rival teams in the division and it’s just so great to be a part of.”
Becker, despite battling a stomach virus that left her bowed over a drain in between dives, won easily on Saturday with a score of 177 points to remain undefeated in her high school career. Junior Mashal Hashem was second for Churchill with 159.45 points.
“I love it when everyone is cheering for me on the boards,” added Becker. “And I know people appreciate it when I’m cheering behind the lanes even if they can’t always hear me. People see that and they join in cheering too.”
Last year at Metros, Churchill’s divers were the difference in the meet, boosting the Bulldogs to a 382 to 380 win over Whitman. Whitman topped Churchill for the Maryland 4A/3A state title, where diving is exhibition only.
Whitman and Churchill, plus Wootton, will again challenge for the Metro and state titles this season, but Churchill’s deep group of underclassmen swimmers may give them an edge over the Vikings and Patriots, led by freshman Hannah Lindsey and sophomore Elaina Gu who were each double individual winners against the Wildcats.
“We returned a lot of our big scorers from last year’s Metros team and we will only lose a couple again at the end of this season,” said coach Roddy. “Getting someone like Hannah obviously ust adds to a really talented group already here. It makes life easy as a coach.”
Lindsey claimed the girls’ 200 freestyle by a five second margin, winning in 1 minute, 53.90 seconds. She also topped the girls’ 100 backstroke in 57.24.
Sophomore Elaina Gu added wins in the girls’ 200 individual medley (2:12.90) and 500 freestyle (5:12.62).
Both swam anchor legs in the 400 freestyle relay, with Lindsey joining Katie Wright, Grace Pereles and Michelle Illig on the winning ‘B’ relay, which beat the ‘A’ relay, 3:42.86 to 3:43.98. Gu was joined by Alicia Tiberino, Nicole Marders and Fiona Asbury on the ‘A’ relay.
Illig — one of the lone seniors swimming for Churchill — won the girls’ 50 freestyle in 24.84. Tiberino, a junior, took home the 100 freestyle in 55.29. Emily Andrews contributed a win in the girls’ 100 butterfly (1:01.31).
Walter Johnson’s lone win on the girls’ side came from junior Haley Nugent, who claimed the 100 breaststroke in 1:10.66. She was second in the 200 IM in 2:15.75.
In the boys’ meet, Churchill (1-1) managed to take home five wins, including the opening 200 medley relay and the top two spots in diving, but Walter Johnson’s (2-0) depth proved to be too much for the Bulldogs who fell 106 to 65.
Barry Mangold led the way for the Wildcats with dominant wins in the 50 and 100 freestyle. He made it look easy winning in 21.77 and 49.11, respectively, breathing easy at the end of each race.
“[Barry] saw at Metros last year how fast he really was and that really motivated him,” said Walter Johnson coach Jamie Grimes who also coaches for Mangold’s club team, Rockville-Montgomery Swim Club. “He’s dedicated himself to being at all the practices and working every set hard. That’s been the biggest difference from a year ago.”
“We didn’t go undefeated last year because of Tom Dolan weekend, but we got by Blair last week, so we’re on our way towards that,” said Mangold.
“The end goal is to win states and be the highest scoring public school at Metros this year. We don’t want be fourth again like we were last year. We want to compete with the prep schools too like Gonzaga and [Georgetown] Prep,” added Mangold.
They’ll have to do that after losing Garrett Powell, Metros record-holder in the 200 freestyle and current University of Georgia swimmer.
“You really can’t replace someone like Garrett. You could put him in any event and he’d win,” said coach Grimes, last year’s All-Met boys’ coach of the year. “We’re hoping that some of the swimmers that didn’t score last year step up. Along with Barry [Mangold], our other seniors, Arthur Arcaz and Chris Root, have already stepped up. We just need the underclassmen to get there as well.”
Arcaz took home wins in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke in 54.91 and 55.99, respectively. Root was second in both the 50 freestyle and 100 butterfly, finishing in 22.59 and 55.98.
In the loss, Churchill’s boys have plenty to be excited about with big time performances from senior Steven Ge, juniors Harrison Gu and Kevin Gu, and sophomore Colin Mackey.
“Kids who weren’t even on the radar last year are swimming so well this year,” said coach Roddy. “You can see the hard work they put in year-round already.”
H. Gu was the only double winner for the Bulldogs, topping both the 200 IM (1:56.06) and 100 breaststroke (59.47). He — along with Ge — also delivered a key leg in the winning 200 medley. Ge won the 500 freestyle after a tight battle from start to finish with Walter Johnson’s Michael Kirchner, 4:47.90 to 4:47.93.
K. Gu and Mackey — also members of the medley relay — finished third in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke, respectively.
“There is a lot more parity in the division this year,” added Grimes. “We want to repeat as state champs, but we know we have to get through divisional opponents first. Churchill and Wootton are going to be good this year. Blair has a lot of strong boys as well. It’s not going to be as easy as last year.”
Walter Johnson will swim Richard Montgomery next at MLK on January 5 at 11:30. Churchill will face off against Blair at Rockville Municipal at 5:15 on the same day.