Coming off a third consecutive conference title, the Oakton girls swim team was not going to be denied a three-peat at the 6A North Region Swim and Dive Championships. They began Saturday’s finals at the Oak Marr Recreation Center in Oakton with a blistering 200-yard medley relay time of 1 minute 46.16 seconds, shaving 0.54 seconds off the region-best time they recorded in preliminaries two days earlier. It was the kind of start that should have set the tone for a dominant night. Instead, it only injected a sense of urgency.
Chantilly surprised the defending champions in that race with a regional record-setting time of 1:46.02. If the Cougars were to continue their winning ways, they would need to step it up.
“Getting out-touched by Chantilly was just unreal in that relay,” Oakton coach Parker Ramsdell said. “That kind of shocked them a little bit, and they really picked it up.”
The girls’ second race of the evening provided a similar story. Sophomore Megan Byrnes put up a respectable 1:49.57 in the 200-yard freestyle, but Langley freshman Bella Rongione came away with a winning time of 1:48.36.
Byrnes used that defeat as motivation to record one of the night’s most remarkable performances later in the meet. She swam her signature event, the 500-yard freestyle, in 4:44.92, dropping 7.04 seconds to secure her first personal-best time since December. It was also four seconds faster than her friend Rongione, who finished runner-up.
“It’s always so much fun representing your high school,” Byrnes said. “It’s something so different. You have your whole team behind you. Knowing that to win the meet you need to get a certain place, it makes you push yourself so much harder.”
Oakton ended up compiling 273 points, well clear of the 236 recorded by second-place Langley. As usual, senior standout Janet Hu was largely responsible for that margin. The Stanford commit flew to a winning time of 22.13 seconds in the 50 free, just 0.14 short of the national high school record. She also cruised to a three-second victory in the 100-yard backstroke and helped Byrnes, Laura Branton and Kendall Lawhorn close the meet with a four-second triumph over Chantilly in the 400-yard freestyle relay.
“We’ve never lost any motivation,” Hu said. “This year we wanted to three-peat. We got that at districts, we got that at regions, and we definitely want to do that at states.”
Robinson cruised to victory on the boys side, totaling 288 points to stay ahead of second-place Oakton (236) and third-place Madison (200). It was a measure of revenge for the defending state champion Rams, who were upset by Madison in last year’s region meet.
Sophomores James Murphy and James Jones led the way for a Robinson squad that continues to feast on freestyle competition. Murphy grabbed a three-second win in the 200 free (1:38.69), then torched the field with a nine-second victory in the 500-yard freestyle (4:27.48), a mark he considered somewhat disappointing after aiming for 4:25. Both times were good enough for new 6A North Region records.
Jones also set a pair of region records, dropping 0.23 in the 50 free (20.52) to beat Madison’s Grayson Smith (21.10), then dropping 1.81 to claim a stress-free victory in the 100 free (45.71). The sophomore duo teamed up to give Robinson a three-second win in the 200 free relay (1:24.20) and a five-second win in the 400 free relay (3:06.04), both region records.
“We’re really excited because we didn’t win it last year,” Jones said. “It was a real emotional battle just to come in and do what we needed to do to win.”
Robinson’s performance Saturday handed Phil Caslavka his first region title since taking over as the school’s swim coach in 2010. The Rams will look to close their undefeated season with another win at the Virginia State Swim and Dive Finals in Richmond on Feb. 22.
“Our guys are all pumped, and we’re looking forward to a couple more years,” Caslavka said.
The Thomas Jefferson boys swim team, meantime, bulldozed the competition at Friday’s 5A North Region Swim Finals to claim its first region title in 12 years. Andrew Seliskar swam the 500 free in 4:24.70, the sixth-fastest time ever by an area high schooler in that event. The Jefferson boys finished the meet at George Mason’s Freedom Aquatics Center 131 points ahead of runner-up Albemarle, while the girls finished second to Albemarle.