Back in St. Mary’s By Tammy Showalter
The Southern Maryland Athletic Conference will hold its swim championships Saturday and it will be in Southern Maryland.
The Aquatics Center of the Michael P. O’Brien Athletics and Recreation Center at St. Mary’s College of Maryland is the home of the championships for the first time since 2006.
The meet will begin at 1 p.m.
The Olympic-size pool has been home to the Capital Athletic Conference Swim Championships since 2006 and will be again next weekend.
ARC director Tom Fisher was in charge of contracting out the use of the pool to SMAC.
“The final decision to host the meet was made back in late August,” Fisher said. “The SMAC conference will provide the staff [timers and officials]. There is room for 300 to 350 spectators and the teams will be on the pool deck.”
For St. Mary’s County squads Leonardtown, Great Mills and Chopticon, the drive to St. Mary’s City won’t be so bad compared to the longer trips to Landover’s Prince George’s Sports and Learning complex in previous years, while teams to their north and west will have a bit of travel time, but the consensus is that each team is very pumped and excited this year.
Leonardtown was the regular season champion on the boys and girls sides, each with 12-0 records. Head coach Chuck Jacobs said the team is looking forward to it.
“With the younger kids stepping up, I'm sure there are a few that are very nervous,” Jacobs said. “The boys know they are in for a tough one and any DQ for anyone could mean a different place in the final standings. The girls know that the boys have a close one and seem to be ready for the challenge ahead with their meet. They are pumped that the meet is at St. Mary’s College. It's a great pool for racing.”
Leonardtown captain Wesley Morgan will be swimming the 100-yard freestyle as well as the 100 backstroke. Jacobs said both are good events for Morgan and he should finish in the top eight in both.
Girls captain Nikita Raley will be swimming the 200 individual medley and 100 back. Raley has been moved around a lot throughout her career to help the team out and Jacobs sees a top-eight finish for her as well.
“A lot of credit should go to the ones that will not get a chance to swim in the conference championship because of the limit on entries,” Jacobs said. “They have worked all season to help their teammates excel and contributed to the undefeated season for Raider Nation.”
North Point finished the regular season in second place at 11-1 on both sides as result of close losses to Leonardtown.
Boys captain Jeff Bell will lead the team in the 100 breaststroke and will also compete in the 200 medley relay.
Senior Kendall McMillen will be in the 200 IM and 100 back, challenging Northern’s Alina Zilevicius in both events. McMillen will also go up against Raley from Leonardtown in the 100 back.
“I think they’re excited,” North Point head coach Jeff Rivenburg said. “They’ve never swam there before so they’re asking a lot of questions, but anytime it’s a new venue it’s exciting.”
At Great Mills, head coach Caroline Dukich has captain Matt Eastburg in the 50 free, which has been his strong event this season. Eastburg will also swim the 100 free, 200 medley relay as well as the 200 free relay. Kristen Mesmer, the girls captain, will be in the same events on the girls side.
Huntingtown junior captain David Alman will challenge Eastburg in the 50 free and is also expected to swim the 100 free and two relays that are yet to be determined, according to head coach Chris Morgan.
Girls senior captain Kasey Raines is focusing on the 200 free and 500 free. McDonough’s Sydney Fuller and Chopticon junior Samantha Barbaris will challenge Raines in the 500 free.
“The entire team is stoked about swimming at St. Mary's College in the SMAC championship meet.” Morgan said.
Northern senior captain Justin Taylor will be busy, swimming in three relays as well as the 50 free. Taylor is no stranger to tough competition as he was a member of last year’s state relay teams.
For the Northern girls, senior captain Zilevicius will swim the 200 medley relay, the 200 IM as well as the 100 back and the 200 free relay. Zilevicius also went to states last year with the Patriots relay teams.
Northern head coach Kandia Spain said the team doesn’t mind traveling to wherever the championship meet is held.
“Some of the swimmers have been to St. Mary’s for club meets,” Spain said. “It’s a great facility.”
Senior captain Stephen Balinski and Scott Gilmour will lead the Patuxent boys team. Both will swim the 200 medley relay, the 50 free as well as the 200 free relay. Gilmour will tack on the 100 free.
Girls senior captains Samantha Leap and Catie Glass are expected to do just as well as they have all season. Leap will swim the 50 free, the 100 butterfly and the 200 free relay. Leap and Glass will team up for the 200 medley relay.
“These seniors have been instrumental all season long, providing critical points when needed and providing leadership to help the younger swimmers,” Patuxent head coach Jeff Ganoe said. “I’m looking forward to a strong performance from them all as we head into postseason. They will be sorely missed, not only for their output, leadership but also for their heart and humor and the impact they had on their team.”
Calvert head coach Brian Dryer is looking for good work from captains Jake Cook, Jason Tkazcuk and Josh Walker.
Cook missed most of the first part of the season due to an injury but he is back and ready to go. He will be swimming the 200 IM and the 100 breast. Cara Mathers will take to the 50 free and 100 breast.
Lackey’s Audrey Donahue will be in the 200 IM and 100 fly, while teammate Sam Paras will be in the 200 IM and 100 breast. Both will also swim the 200 medley relay and the 400 free relay as well.