Oakton head coach Parker Ramsdell’s eyes shifted from his swimmers in the pool to the timing clock on deck searching for the results for the final heat of the boys’ 200-yard freestyle at the AAA Concorde District championship meet on Saturday night in Chantilly. Nathan Pawlowicz — his only swimmer in the heat — finished fourth place, just out-touched by two-tenths of a second, but the coach’s eyes remained glued to the clock.
As the next time ticked across the clock, Ramsdell turned from the pool, clenched his fist, and let loose an exuberant, “Yes!” His sophomore Michael Ambrose, who swam in the previous heat, had moved up from ninth to fifth — a five point bonus for the Cougars.
It was jumps such as Ambrose’s that provided the difference for Oakton, who held off a young, talented Robinson squad, 464 to 460 points, to repeat as district champions on Saturday night. Oakton’s girls rolled to an easy victory over Robinson, 532 to 323, after winning seven of 11 swimming events. Chantilly finished third in both the boys’ and girls’ meets.
“Based on seeds, we were suppose to lose by six points [in the boys meet]. We outscored our seeds by 20 points over the course of the meet,”
said Ramsdell still dripping wet after celebrating with his team in the center of the Cub Run pool.
Oakton had the maximum of four swimmers score in every event except two, curbing a loaded Robinson team that won both free relays and placed swimmers in the top three in nearly every event.
“Kids just stepped up big time,” added Ramsdell. “Across the board, it wasn’t just the stars that came out today, it was every single swimmer.”
Senior captain Philip Hu, a 2012 first team All-Met, led the way with two individual victories, both in record setting times.
In the 100 butterfly, Hu held off Robinson’s freshman phenom James Murphy to win, 50.31 to 51.65, respectively. Later, Hu posted a time of 50.27 in the 100 backstroke to break the district’s oldest swimming record, set in 2000, by .76 seconds. Robinson junior Matt Jones was second in 52.90, out-touching Oakton’s John Shebat by .04 seconds. Shebat later finished second in the 50 freestyle in 22.10.
“I wanted to come out and go after those records,” said Hu. “Seeing Murphy seeded so close to me gave me extra motivation as well.”
In the girls’ meet, it was Philip’s sister Janet Hu — 2012 All-Met swimmer of the year — who dominated the night with four awe-inducing performances.
In her first individual swim — the 200 individual medley — Hu won easily, building a two second lead after the first lap and a five second lead after the second. She finished in 2:03.47, just off of an automatic all-American cut and well ahead Robinson’s Katie Munch who touched in second place (2:10.11).
Then, Hu blasted a 50.38 in the girls’ 100 freestyle to shatter the district record, previously held by 2009 All-Met swimmer of the year Amanda Kendall, by 1.75 seconds, this time reaching the AAA cut. Robinson freshman Hannah Baker finished second, 2.38 seconds behind the Oakton junior. Baker also won the girls’ 50 freestyle in 24.16.
Hu also led off the winning girls’ 200 medley relay and anchored the winning 400 freestyle relay. She was joined by seniors Melissa Shebat and Gillian Crews and sophomore Julia Capobianco in the medley relay for a new district record of 1:47.39. In the freestyle relay, the team of Laura Branton, Kendall Lawhorn, Megan Byrnes and Hu just missed the record, set in 2008, by .12 seconds.
“Three years ago, the Oakton High School girls’ swim and dive team had never won anything,” said Ramsdell. “Now, they’ve won three Concorde District championships, a regional championship and a state championship, and they’re hungry for more.”
Other individual winners for the Cougars were freshman Brynes in the girls’ 200 freestyle (1:54.12) and 100 backstroke (58.73), Denny Nguyen in the boys’ 200 individual medley (1:56.85), Branton in the girls’ 100 butterfly (56.34), and Pawlowicz in the boys’ 500 freestyle (4:42.14).
Oakton will now
turn their focus towards defending their Northern Region titles. While the girls’ should dominate for a second-straight year, the boys will face a tough battle against area powerhouses Robinson, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and W.T. Woodson.
“We’re focused on regionals right now…Robinson is going to be great [at regionals], and we know Madison and TJ are going to be right there as well,” said Ramsdell. “Kids swam out of their minds tonight and we just hope they’ll do the same next week. It’s going to be a fight, and just like this meet, I don’t think we’re going to go in as the favorites [in the boys meet]. Hopefully we come out on top again.”
Even in the loss, Robinson has a lot to be optimistic about heading into regionals. A year ago, the boys’ squad finished over 200 points behind Oakton in fourth place and didn’t even crack the top ten at regionals. This year, with the addition of freshmen Murphy, James Jones and Luke Jones, the Rams are contenders for the region and state titles.
Murphy — the runner-up in the 100 butterfly — was sensational all night, unflappable in his first high school championship meet. He provided the night’s fastest splits in the 200 freestyle relay (20.97) and 400 freestyle relays (46.18), handing Robinson the win in each.
But Murphy’s potential was truly on display in the 200 freestyle against defending district champion Christopher Grimmett-Norris. Murphy went stroke-for-stroke with Grimmett-Norris before being out-touched, 1:40.03 to 1:40.19. Both swimmers went under the previous record.
Grimmett-Norris also claimed first in the 100 freestyle in a winning time of 47.27, beating out Murphy’s teammates, junior Matt Jones — runner-up in the 100 backstroke — and freshmen James Jones and Luke Jones, who finished second, third and fourth, respectively.
“Those freshman [from Robinson] are incredible. I didn’t want to lose to freshmen,” said Grimmett-Norris who will go for the regional and state record in the 200 freestyle over the next month.
James Jones impressed everyone with a win in the 50 freestyle (21.52). His teammate Luke Jones was fifth in 22.50 indicating a strong future for Robinson’s relays.
Logan Coulson-Moore won the girls’ 500 freestyle in 5:12.80, opening up an eight second gap between herself and second-placed Lawhorn. The Chantilly junior also finished second to Byrnes in the 100 backstroke with a time of 59.24. Herndon junior Ryan Murphy was third in 59.43.
Seniors Brandon Fiala of Westfield and Robinson’s Munch were the final individual winners of the night, each earning victories in the 100 breaststroke. Fiala beat out Robinson’s Johann Shim 59.22 to 1:00.01, while Munch just out-touched Chantilly’s Emma Richer, 1:05.08 to 1:05.16.
Tags: 2013 Concorde District Swimming and Diving Championships, 2013 High School Championship meets, Bennett Fagan, Brandon Fiala, Chantilly High School, Christopher Grimmett-Norris, Concorde District, Emma Richer, Gillian Crews, Hannah Baker, Herndon High School, James Jones, James Murphy, Janet Hu, Johann Shim, John Shebat, Julia Capobianco, Katie Munch, Kaylin LeRoy, Kendall Lawhorn, Laura Branton, Logan Coulson Moore, Luke Jones, Matt Jones, Megan Byrnes, Melissa Shebat, Michael Ambrose, Nathan Pawlowicz, Northern Region swimming, Oakton High School, Philip Hu, Robinson Secondary, Sarah Gross, Virginia swimming, Westfield High School