Recovering MCSL’s Lost History

By Reach for the Wall Staff Writers.

As noted in our story on the Northern Virginia Swimming League (NVSL), the Overlee Flying Fish have won 29 league titles over NVSL’s 60 year history, 7 of them since 2006.  So that got us wondering – who has won the most MCSL titles?

We assumed that a quick review of the MCSL website would reveal the answer.  Unfortunately, MCSL.org only lists the league winners going back to 1999.  So, we went on a little adventure to find the answer.

Sallie McK (2)First, we consulted the MCSL bible – mcsl50.blogspot.com – that Sally MacKenzie created in 2008 for the league’s 50th anniversary to explain everything you could possibly ever want to know about MCSL.

That is, her blog has everything except a list of MCSL league winners since 1958.

So, we asked MacKenzie directly where we could find the definitive list of crown holders.  Sally was a swim mom at Rockshire for 19 years and a former president of the MCSL, so she’d know where to find that info quickly, right?

“I’m not aware of a single place that would list that info”, she confessed.

Uh-oh.  We all learned from a very early age that when moms and former league presidents don’t immediately know where something is, it’s lost forever.  Fact of life.  If Sally didn’t know that info, we’re doomed.

Except she offered us a ray of hope.  “What I think you’d have to do is go through all the MCSL handbooks – though I’m afraid there may not be any from the very first years. The Montgomery County Historical Society has the League papers.”

Oooh – that didn’t sound fun.  So, to avoid a trip to the Historical Society, we instead asked the current president and vice president of MCSL, Scott Witkin and Jim Garner, if they knew where we could find the league’s list of champions.

Neither knew, but Garner offered a big clue.  “There used to be a big wooden number 1 (about 8 feet tall) that the number 1 team got and added their name on the number.  Check with Damascus and see if they know where it got to.  Or maybe Stonegate has it.  That would tell the history.”

“We definitely don’t have it”, said Stonegate’s head coach, Brian Cheng, whose Serpents have won the last two league titles.Buzz Maddox

So, we sent an email to the Damascus coaches (they don’t know us from Adam):  “Hi! Strange question: Do you have an 8 foot wooden #1 that has the name of each team that has won an MCSL title since 1958?”

Buzz Maddox, Damascus’s head coach, answered in 10 minutes.  “I think we do have the tall #1, it has many of the titles, but I don’t think it has all of them. I will dig it out next week and let you know.  I will send a pic.” Ben Leach, the team’s assistant head coach, added, “Hey Buzz, there are actually two wooden #1s.”

Two wooden number ones?!  Jackpot.

And true to her word, Coach Buzz sent us a photo of the wooden #1 that she found in Damascus’ team closet.  So, in looking at that picture, we now knew who won during the 1973-1994 period.  And Buzz added, “I am 99% sure we have the [2nd wooden #1], but I will have to search further for it because I couldn’t find it today.  Our team closet is a nightmare, lol”.

We were close.  We could feel it.  We were like Indiana Jones with the Golden Idol in his sights.

But then it all fell apart.  Damascus didn’t have the second #1 afterall.  And although the Rockville Rays later found it tucked away in a mechanical room at their pool, it was missing the top half that contained the 1995-1998 info that we needed.  The prospect of fulfilling our quest began to crumble around us.

2nd wooden 1We had arrived at a fork in the road.  At this point, we could have simply declared victory and headed home, satisfied that we had found at least one of the wooden #1’s and revived part of MCSL’s history.

Or, we could brave the Historical Society to identify all of the league champions since 1958.

We opted for the latter because, well, why not?

When we asked the librarian at the Historical Society where we could find MCSL’s historical records, we expected a blank look and shrugged shoulders.  But strangely, she quickly led us upstairs to where they were stored in two, tidy boxes.

“How many requests for old MCSL records does the library get?”, we inquired. “About one every month or so,” said the librarian.  Hmm, who knew?MCHS

When we opened the boxes, instead of finding hairy spiders and dust, we found the records were neatly organized by year in manila folders.  We zeroed in on the handbooks from 1969-1972 and 1995-1998 and identified who won the league in those years.  In reviewing the other miscellaneous documents, we (think we) were able to determine who won the league in 1958-68.

So, what’s our conclusion from this little adventure?  Well, below is the (unofficial) list of MCSL champions that we cobbled together:

2015: Stonegate
2014: Stonegate
2013: Upper County
2012: Rockville
2011: Rockville
2010: Rockville
2009: Rockville
2008: Rockville
2007: Rockville
2006: Rockville
2005: Rockville
2004: Hallowell
2003: Tanterra
2002: Rockville
2001: Damascus
2000: Damascus
1999: Damascus
1998: Damascus
1997: Damascus
1996: Quince Orchard / Damascus (tie)
1995: Damascus
1994: Darnestown
1993: Damascus
1992: Flower Valley
1991: Darnestown
1990: Darnestown
1989: Darnestown
1988: Darnestown
1987: Darnestown
1986: Country Glen
1985: Country Glen
1984: Country Glen
1983: Old Farm
1982: Old Farm
1981: Old Farm
1980: Robin Hood
1979: Montgomery Square
1978: Robin Hood
1977: Flower Valley
1976: Flower Valley
1975: Flower Valley
1974: Flower Valley
1973: Flower Valley
1972:  Whetstone
1971:  Carderock Springs
1970:  Potomac
1969:  Woodley Gardens
1968:  Old Georgetown
1967:  Old Georgetown
1966:  Old Georgetown
1965:  Wheaton Woods
1964:  Cedarbrook
1963:  Cedarbrook
1962:  Cedarbrook
1961:  Cedarbrook
1960: Cedarbrook
1959: Cedarbrook
1958: Cedarbrook

Rockville has won the most titles (9), Damascus has 8 crowns, Cedarbrook has 7, and Darnestown and Flower Valley both have 6.  But no one in MCSL has dominated like NVSL’s Overlee Flying Fish.

12 thoughts on “Recovering MCSL’s Lost History

  • Jun 11, 2016 at 5:37 pm
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    What a fun read! Thanks for all the sleuthing, Jim, and I’m happy to hear the MCSL files are getting a workout at the Historical Society.

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  • Jun 11, 2016 at 9:16 pm
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    Excellent job. MCSL should pay for this.

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  • Jun 13, 2016 at 5:03 pm
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    But there is much more to this story and a big twist… perhaps you should ask the Quince Orchard Otters who made the second #1 and who TIED Damascus (hence the second Number 1)

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    • Jun 13, 2016 at 6:59 pm
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      We are seeing some of this story unfold on Facebook! We would love to put together an article with the whole tale if someone can tell it! Email us contact@reachforthewall.com

      Reply
  • Jun 13, 2016 at 8:53 pm
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    The original Number One was made out of card board and held together with one large aluminum bracket. It was flimsy at best, but had enormous meaning. When Darnestown went on their dominant run the original one fell apart, therefore, Darnestwon made a new one out of wood. We passed it to Flower Valley who won then they in turn passed it to Damascus. When we won it back again, we had to go retrieve it from Damascus as they weren’t so willing to give it up (actually a very funny story). When I retired I actually lost track of it. MCSL should build a new one and get the tradition started again. Maybe give it at All Stars with the Division trophies. Just my two cents

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    • Jun 13, 2016 at 10:29 pm
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      Dave you can’t leave us in suspense like this. We need to hear the story!!!

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  • Jun 13, 2016 at 11:11 pm
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    We called several times and left numerous messages about returning the number one. No reply. So, we finally got in touch with one of the team reps and said we would pick it up. They said where and when. When we arrived to pick it up, no one was home. We weren’t surprised. So we decided to sort of hunt for it. And so. low and behold it was hidden in the back yard under a tarp. So we decide to take it. I believe it could have been construed as theft, but we didn’t see it that way. So, picture a car driving down 118 in Damascus with a huge wooded number one hanging out the window of a car. The number one is like the Holy Grail. It’s way better than all of those silly College Football trophies. This is the symbol of being the best, for that summer and it’s yours all winter long. One year we proudly displayed it outside everyone’s house. It went to every family. We should construct two. So, that all of the history is there for everyone to see. If you notice. not very many teams have had ownership of it.

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    • Jun 13, 2016 at 11:17 pm
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      Awesome story Dave! Reach For The Wall agrees, the tradition needs to return!

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    • Jun 13, 2016 at 11:35 pm
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      Lol! So Dave, just to understand the big picture here, were you at both (i) Darnestown in 1994 when DT won it back from Damascus AND (ii) Rockville in 2002 when the Rays won it back from Damascus?

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      • Jun 14, 2016 at 12:14 am
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        So Dave is correct, the Number 1 was was tough to pry from Damascus. As shown on the picture the surface was covered when Damascus reclaimed the prize in 1995. In 1996 the Quince Orchard Otters were the only undefeated team in Divsion A and beat Damascus in a duel meet. The MCSL Handbook 1997 lists QO first based on duel meet record of 5-0 and shows both teams tied in points. Damascus then decided to “retire” the number 1. So the Quince Orchard parents created a new version. The bottom half is shown in your picture. It was design to fit together in two pieces to be more readily transported. The tradition remained and was passed on the next year.

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        • Jun 14, 2016 at 12:28 am
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          So we should include QO as a co-league champion in 1996? Does the top half of the 2nd Number 1 still exist?

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  • Jul 29, 2016 at 4:20 am
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    Not to be nitpicky, but is it assumed that the #1 team is the one that finished on top of the points at the end of the year? I can see where a team can finish 5-0 yet still lose if they do badly at relays and divisionals. In any case….2018 is 60 years of MCSL so this would be a great time to start a really good MCSL history reconstruction.

    Reply

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