Since joining the state competition two years ago, Montgomery County teams have been untouchable in the Class 4A/3A championship — it accounted for the top seven girls' teams and top eight boys' squads at last year's season-ending meet. So, naturally, Richard Montgomery High School swimming and diving coach Aryn Wheeler figured her title contending boys' team's biggest obstacle in Saturday's championship held at the University of Maryland, College Park, would be a team she was quite familiar with.
Then Anne Arundel County's Broadneck took a 30-point lead midway through the competition.
“Yeah, I definitely panicked, ask my team,” Wheeler said. “I was freaking out.”
But the Rockets hadn't posted arguably their best season ever — undefeated regular season, Division I championship, top public school finisher at the Washington Metropolitan Interscholastic Swimming and Diving championships — to finish as state runner-up. Bit by bit Richard Montgomery began picking away at the Bruins' lead and ultimately, clinched its first state championship with a 267.5-225 advantage over Thomas S. Wootton, which overtook Broadneck for second place. The Bruins finished third with 221 and Montgomery Blair (194 points) and Walt Whitman (183.5) finished fourth and fifth. Anne Arundel's Severna Park's 10th-place finish was the only other non-Montgomery boys' team in the top 11 Saturday.
“We knew we couldn't get nervous, the boys just had to try to beat the people next to them and they were trying to place with the next heat,” Wheeler said. “It's sweeter to come from behind, because we knew we had to work for it and we wanted it.”
The defending champion Wootton girls completed a nice comeback of their own Saturday. Trailing rival Winston Churchill for the majority of the middle portion of the championship — albeit by less than 20 points — Wootton eked out a 292.5-290.5 win over the Bulldogs, who had taken the Patriots' Metros, region and Division I titles this winter. Walter Johnson (169.5), Richard Montgomery (169) and last year's runner-up Sherwood (166) rounded out the top five. Again, Severna Park (seventh) and Broadneck (10th) spoiled an all Montgomery top 10.
Including the Poolesville boys' third consecutive state title in the Class 3A/2A/1A later Saturday afternoon, Montgomery County has accounted for 10 of 12 possible titles the past three years — the defending champion Poolesville girls finished second Saturday and in 2012.
“I think this was most important for the seniors, ending on a high note is a wonderful memory,” Wootton coach Jacqueline Emr said. “Honestly [the team spirit] is what got us through, them being excited to be here. Last week coming off Metros and the snow days where people were sleeping a lot, our heads were in a better place [Saturday].”
As Churchill coach Brendan Roddy said, the Bulldogs have gotten flack for the number of points their county-best diving contingent earns them during Metros but last week's region title and Saturday's near-win proved Churchill is not “a diving team with a swimming issue.”
Poolesville's boys finished more than 100 points ahead of second-place Queen Anne's, 346-182. Seneca Valley had its best state result with third place (161) and Frederick County's Oakdale High (139) and Harford County's C. Milton Wright (135) took fourth and fifth, respectively. Poolesville's girls lead early but ultimately succumbed to C. Milton Wright, which pulled ahead, 327.5-297.5 with a good second half of the meet. Frederick (167.5), Damascus (166.5) and Oakdale (157) finished third through fifth.
Five meet records were broken in Saturday's Class 4A/3A meet, four by Montgomery swimmers. Albert Einstein junior Rory Lewis broke his own record in the 100-yard butterfly (50.79 seconds). Walter Johnson's Jean-Marc Nugent broke a 2009 record en route to winning the 100-yard freestyle (46.99), Churchill's Hannah Lindsey broke Wootton senior Kristina Li's 2012 record in the 100 backstroke (56.42) and then teamed with Alicia Tiberino, Emily Andrews and Elaina Gu to win the meet-finale 400-yard freestyle relay in meet-record fashion (3 minutes, 33.76 seconds). Severna Park's Katie Parker set a new meet mark in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:05.67).
Lewis, who also won the 200-yard individual medley, Nugent, who won the 50-yard freestyle) and Sherwood sophomore Morgan Hill (50- and 100-yard freestyle) were the meet's only double individual event winners.
The Bulldogs knew going in to the final race that they would need to win and have Wootton finish fourth in order to win Saturday's title — the Patriots finished second — but Roddy said he was proud of his charges for finishing strong.
“I can't ask for more than a first-place finish [to end the meet], Roddy said. “The girls swam great, it's been a great season. We were undefeated up until two points at the end and what is that, a 15th-place finish?'”
Northern High's (Calvert County) Ben Lawless set the small schools meet's only two records, in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle. Other double winners in the day's second meet included, Damascus' Ryan O'Leary (200-yard individual medley, 100-yard breaststroke), Poolesville's Xavier Laracuente (50- and 100-yard freestyle), C.M. Wright's Megan Cowan (200- and 500-yard freestyle) and Poolesville's Dorit Song (200-yard individual medley, 100-yard freestyle),
“A couple swims got away from us [on the girls side] but everyone left it all in the pool and tried their hardest and that's all I can ask for,” Poolesville coach Johnny Leong said. “I think we have an advantage because of how deep [our boys team] is. But this is an extremely talented senior class. Next year I think we'll be competitive, but [won't be the same].”
For complete results check mpssaa.org