They stood anxiously by the pool, trying to tamp down nerves and uncertainty. Following a grueling four-hour meet last Friday night, the Oakton girls swim and dive team appeared to have a second straight Concorde District title well in hand, but the Oakton boys team wasn’t so sure about its own fate. Optimism lingered in the wake of several unexpected points picked up throughout the meet, but strong performances from an equally capable Robinson side kept a sure-fire result out of reach.
Finally, a hush fell over the water as the scorekeeper announced the evening’s outcome.
In third place: Chantilly, with 367 points.
In second place: Robinson, with 460 points.
The deck erupted in hysterics and hugs before he could announce first-place Oakton’s total of 464 points. Maroon-and-gold-painted swimmers and coaches jumped into the pool in unison to celebrate back-to-back district championship seasons that, heading into this weekend’s regional meet, have featured nothing but wins.
According to second-year Oakton coach Parker Ramsdell, the Cougars would have lost to Robinson by six points based on pre-meet seedings. Several athletes went beyond what was expected of them, resulting in Oakton outscoring its seeds by 20 points over the course of the meet.
“Before we left the school today, every boy stood up and made a commitment that they were going to give everything they had to win this meet today,” said Ramsdell, whose only blemish to this point at Oakton was a runner-up finish at the boys state meet last year. “They fulfilled their commitment to one another, and it was very special back at school to see them all make that promise to their teammates and even more special to get that first place and watch them come through on that promise.”
Though their big guns came to play on Friday, it was Oakton’s less heralded swimmers that pushed them over the top. Sophomore Michael Ambrose dropped his time in the 200-freestyle by two seconds to claim fifth place, earning the Cougars 14 points in the process. Teammate Carter Lopez-Gomez dropped five seconds in his 200 IM to give his team four points, and senior Ricky Menendez finished 13th in the 50-yard freestyle to pick up another four points. Cameron Santoro went from the first heat to 10th place overall in the 100-yard freestyle for a seven-point pickup.
“Across the board, it wasn’t just the stars that came out today. It was every single swimmer,” Ramsdell said. “To be up 20 points off your seeds is just ridiculous.”
Janet Hu displayed her usual dominance to lead the girls side, whose point total of 532 was well ahead of second-place Robinson (323) and third-place Chantilly (311). The standout junior won each of her four races, including a blistering time of 50.38 seconds in the 100 freestyle, which shattered Amanda Kendall’s 2009 district record by 1.75 seconds.
Hu’s brother, Philip, had an outstanding night that featured two record-breaking performances. After edging Robinson freshman James Murphy in the 100 butterfly, Oakton’s senior captain posted a time of 50.27 in the 100 backstroke to break the district’s oldest swimming record, set in 2000, by .76 seconds.
In addition to taking part in two winning relays, freshman Megan Byrnes grabbed two decisive wins in the 200 freestyle and the 100 backstroke, both in state qualifying times. Her efforts helped the defending state champions capture seven of the meet’s 11 races.
“I had never experienced being on a huge high school team before, so it was so much fun,” Byrnes said. “All your teammates are there cheering for you behind the blocks in every single race. We had a huge cheering section with all the posters, which was so awesome. Winning and jumping in the pool was like the greatest moment ever.”
With their district supremacy cemented, Oakton’s boys and girls teams will vie to defend their regional titles at Saturday’s Northern Region swim finals at Oak Marr RECenter.
“Regionals is going to be tough,” Philip Hu said. “You’ve got TJ, Madison and Robinson again. They have a lot of superstars on their team, and that’s what matters most when you get up to the region and state levels. Depth really matters at the district and regular season meets. Once you get up to states, it’s the four or five superstars you have that score that wins the meet.”
The McLean girls swim and dive team captured its first district title since 1997 last Friday. Langley entered the meet favored to win its third consecutive Liberty title, but the Highlanders pulled off a district-record-breaking final swim in the 200 medley relay to out-touch Langley by 0.2 seconds and secure a 21-point victory. McLean’s girls side lost to the Saxons by 48 points in their December dual meet.
“It kind of took us by surprise, but we’ve had a great season,” first-year McLean coach Kevin Burke said. “We’ve got a strong group of girls, and it’s just great to see the upperclassmen, who know teams that haven’t performed as strongly. To be part of something really special in their senior and junior year is great.”
McLean sophomore Caroline McCleary took first place in the dive competition, while Veronica Wolff, Nowell Boardman and MJ Ulrich earned state cuts in individual events.
Madison won the boys title, finishing 70 points clear of second-place Jefferson.
Woodson boys repeat in Patriot
The Woodson boys swim and dive team earned its fourth straight Patriot District title last Friday to remain undefeated, finishing 62 points ahead of second-place West Springfield.
“I thought over the course of this year and in districts it took a lot of our secondary swimmers stepping up to be able to win the title,” Woodson coach Brian Dufour said. “We graduated 12 seniors from last year’s team, and all of them swam in districts. So we lost a lot, and it really took the effort of the whole team to really step up and make it back there to win it.”
Despite coming out 40 points ahead of their seedings, the Woodson girls came up seven points short of first-place West Springfield.