By Reach for the Wall Staff Writers.
This is one in a series of articles that highlights the summer swim leagues in our area that have played key roles in making the Washington D.C. metro area a national hotbed for swimming that continues to produce Olympic gold medalists and a long line of scholarship athletes. We previously highlighted the Montgomery County Swim League (MCSL), and we now focus on the Northern Virginia Swimming League (NVSL).
Established in 1956, NVSL is the biggest league in our region (and perhaps in the U.S.?), with 102 swim teams and 48 diving teams in Arlington and Fairfax counties. The NVSL gives approximately 17,000 kids the opportunity to participate in aquatic sports every summer. The league is divided into 17 divisions, and (similar to MCSL) the 6 teams in each division compete each Saturday in dual “A” meets over 5 weeks and as well as divisional relay and individual championship meets. The swim league also holds “B” meets on Monday nights for those who do not qualify to swim in the Saturday A meets.
At the end of the season, NVSL’s fastest 16 swimmers in each event (+ 2 alternates) from all of the divisional meets compete at “All-Star” relay and individual invitational meets (meaning that if a top swimmer has a bad day at Divisionals, s/he doesn’t qualify for All-Stars). This differs from MCSL, where the top 16 swimmers (+ 2 alternates) can qualify for All-Stars from either Divisionals or any A meet.
Readers have suggested that Reach for the Wall run virtual meets between NVSL and MCSL teams. While we are looking into doing this, it’s like comparing red apples to orange apples (huh?) because (among other things):
- The events are a little different. For example:
- NVSL holds relays for each age group + a mixed age crescendo freestyle relay at the end of the meet whereas MCSL only holds two relays: an open medley relay at the beginning of the meet and a crescendo freestyle relay at the end of the meet.
- Each age group in NVSL (except 8 & unders) swim 50’s in each stroke, whereas in MCSL, 9-10’s swim 25’s in everything (except freestyle) and the 15-18s swim 100’s in every stroke.
- The point system is different in each league (e.g., NVSL awards points to the top 3 finishers in individual events and only the top team in relay events whereas MCSL awards points to the top 5 finishers in individual meets and the top 3 teams in relay events).
In addition to its swimming league, NVSL also supports a dive league. (MCSL, in contrast, only supports swimming while the separate Montgomery County Dive League supports diving in that county.) The NVSL dive league is divided into 8 divisions, and the 6 teams in each division compete in dual meets over a 5 week season. Following the conclusion of the regular season, each division holds an individual division championship, which is used to qualify for the league’s Individual All-Star Championship Meet. The dive league also hosts the annual Cracker Jack Invitational, which is one of the world’s largest one-day diving competitions.
Below are some highlights of the top 6 divisions in the league. In several weeks, after team rosters are fixed, we will identify some NVSL swimmers that you might keep an eye on.
Overlee, Chesterbrook, McLean, Tuckahoe, Highlands Swim, Wakefield Chapel
The New York Yankees, Auerbach’s Boston Celtics, New Zealand’s All Blacks rugby team, the Soviet Union’s national ice hockey team and Darth Vader’s Galactic Empire can’t touch the dominance that the Overlee Flying Fish have enjoyed since it entered NVSL in 1958. Overlee has won 29 league titles over NVSL’s 60 year history, 7 since 2006. And they have a ghost, too.
But McLean’s Chesterbrook (one of the founding members of NVSL in 1956) has been a BIG thorn in the side of the Arlington superpower since 2000. Last year marked the eighth year in a row that the two teams clashed in the final week with 4-0 records and the division championship on the line. Since 2000, each team has won 7 league titles. Making the rivalry even closer, Overlee beat the Tiger Sharks by 2 points in 2014, and Chesterbrook beat the Flying Fish by the same amount in 2013 and by 3 points in 2012. Here’s some flavor from this meet.
Tuckahoe (another NVSL founding member) and McLean have their own fierce rivalry and have battled for 3rd and 4th place in Division 1 over the last 5 years. The two teams tied in 2012, McLean beat the Tigers in their dual meet and divisional standings last year, but Tuckahoe has beaten the Marlins 3 of the last 5 years. The Tigers also have a richer history in Division 1, having swum in it for all but 9 seasons since 1956, winning 5 league titles in all.
Highlands Swim was a fixture in Division 1 in the 1970’s (and won a league title in 1974) but didn’t return to the top division until 2012, where it has placed 5th for 4 straight years. Will the Whomping Turtles go 5 for 5 this year?
Wakefield Chapel won Division 2 last year, and replaces Hamlet as the 6th team in Division 1 this year (payback for Hamlet replacing WC in Division 1 last season). The Wahoos also were a mainstay in Division 1 in the 1970’s (and early 1980’s) and have 2 league titles to their name.
Division 1 has not had the same 6 teams for consecutive years since the 2004 and 2005 seasons, so we’ll see if the division’s 6 teams can all stay put next year.
Hamlet, Hunter Mill, Hunt Valley, Donaldson Run, Little Rocky Run, Mount Vernon Park
Hamlet falls to Division 2 this year, which the Green Feet won in 2014. In that Division 2 title year, Hamlet beat Hunt Valley by 12 points and Hunter Mill by 30 points in their respective dual meets, so the Stingrays and Sharks might be looking for revenge against Hamlet this year. Hunter Mill and Hunt Valley also will have each other in their sights given that HV beat HTM by 100 points in 2014 but HTM returned the favor last year by beating HV by 88 points. To add to the intrigue, Donaldson Run fell to both Hunter Mill and Hunt Valley last year, so the Thunderbolts will be looking for some payback against both teams.
In 2014, Donaldson Run won the Division 3 title by beating both Little Rocky Run and Mount Vernon Park in their dual meets, so LRR and MVP are licking their chops to get even against the Thunderbolts this year. Moreover, Donaldson has beaten Mount Vernon Park in 2 out of their last 3 meetings, so the Gators will have extra incentive to beat DR this year.
Vienna Aquatic, Vienna Woods, Fairfax, Langley, Lee-Graham, Ravensworth Farm
Vienna Aquatic, which won a league title in 2005, has swum in Division 2 for 3 of the last 4 years, and hasn’t swum in Division 3 since 2011. Moreover, the Gators have not swum against any of this year’s Division 3 teams since beating the Fairfax Frogs and Lee-Graham in Division 2 clashes in 2012.
Vienna Woods (which has 5 league titles) and Fairfax are the only teams from last year’s Division 3 who remain in Division 3 this year. Vienna Woods beat the Frogs last year (by 15 points) and in 2013, so Fairfax will want to jump VW this year. Vienna Woods also swam in Division 3 in 2014 and 2013, beating Lee-Graham in both years.
The Langley Wildthings, which won Division 4 last year, beat Lee-Graham in their 2015 meet by only 5 points, so Lee-Graham will look to roar their own terrible roars, gnash their own terrible teeth, roll their own terrible eyes and show their own terrible claws this year against Langley.
Ravensworth Farm are a team on the rise, having won Division 5 last year, Division 6 in 2013 and Division 8 in 2011. The Ravens haven’t swum against any of this year’s Division 3 teams for some time, except for Langley, who beat RF in 2014.
Dunn Loring, Pinecrest, Poplar Tree, Virginia Run, Crosspointe, Cottontail
After 4 years in Division 4, Dunn Loring climbed to Division 3 last year, only to fall back to familiar grounds this year. The Dolphins have not swum against any of this year’s Division 4 teams recently except the Pinecrest Piranhas, who lost to Dunn in 2014 and 2012.
Last year, Pinecrest, Poplar Tree and Virginia Run finished in a 3-way tie in Division 4 with a 2-3 record after PC beat PT, PT beat VR, and VR beat PC. Perhaps this year, the 3 teams will establish a clear hierarchy as they did in 2011, when Pinecrest beat both teams, and PT beat VR.
After spending the last 3 years in Division 5, Crosspointe climbs up to Division 4 this year. The Cruisers don’t have much recent history with any of the teams in Division 4, except for Poplar Tree (who beat Crosspointe in 2014) and Pinecrest (who bested the Cruisers in 2013).
Cottontail, which won Division 6 last year, has steadily ascended the divisional standings since 2010, when it was competing in Division 15. The Cobias do not have much recent history with any of this year’s Division 4 teams, except for Virginia Run, who beat Cottontail in 2014 in a Division 6 dual meet.
Lakevale Estates, Cardinal Hill, Oakton, Sleepy Hollow Bath, Fair Oaks, Kent Gardens
Lakevale Estates swam from Division 5 in 2010 to Division 2 in 2013-2015 and then did a back flip back to Division 5 this year. The Dolphins have not competed recently with any teams in this year’s Division 5, except for Oakton, which lost to Lakevale in 2013 in a Division 2 shootout.
Oakton, which also used to compete regularly in Division 2, fell to Division 5 last year where it will again swim this year. The Otters beat Cardinal Hill by 5 points last year but tied for 3rd in the final Division 5 standings. The Cardinals have competed in Division 5 in 4 of the last 5 years and finished 3rd in the division in 3 of those 5 years. Consistent these birds.
Sleepy Hollow Bath, Fair Oaks and Kent Gardens are teams on the rise, all jumping up to Division 5 after years of swimming in lower divisions. Division 5 is the highest division in which Fair Oaks has competed. Keep an eye on Kent Gardens, which won Division 8 in 2015, Division 9 in 2014 and Division 11 in 2013.
Fairfax Station, Riverside Gardens, Dowden Terrace, Greenbriar, Mantua, High Point
Fairfax Station, which won league titles in 1999 and 2000, was a mainstay in Division 1 up until 2010, and swam in Division 2 in 2011-2014 and in Division 3 in 2015. The Flyers, however, took a little fall this year to Division 6, where they will face teams they haven’t seen for many years (if ever).
Riverside Gardens and Dowden Terrace also has a limited history with this year’s Division 6 teams. But there’s some. Dowden beat Greenbriar in a 2014 final week showdown to win Division 7, and Greenbriar ambushed Riverside in a 2010 Division 7 meet. And of course, Riverside beat Dowden in a 2011 Division 7 clash and Mantua in a 2014 Division 5 meet.
Mantua has competed in Division 6 for 4 of the last 5 years and come in 2nd in 3 of those years. Last year, the Marlins beat Greenbriar, so the Dolphins have some payback to give to Mantua.
The High Point Hippos, the Division 7 champs in 2015, and Mantua are 1-1 in their meetings since 2011.
Good luck to all NVSL teams this summer – swim fast and have fun! (And send us photos, videos and write-ups from your meets.)