Oakton’s Janet Hu was visibly shaking in the moments before her 50-yard freestyle race during Saturday night’s Virginia 6A North Region Swim and Dive Championships, which helped keep her body loose and warm before she dove into the water. But nerves were also wreaking havoc on her body because when she stepped to the block, the entire crowd became quiet. The crowd sensed the possibility of a national high school record. Hu was thinking about it, too.
“Definitely a little bit of nerves,” Hu said of the race.
In the end, Hu came up a hair short. She has never lost a high school swimming contest, and with that has come expectations. But even without a national record showing, Hu was in a league of her own, dominating in both the 50 freestyle and the 100 backstroke to help Oakton to its third consecutive North Region championship at Oak Marr Recreation Center in Oakton.
“Still, not a bad swim. So I wasn’t too disappointed, but I definitely wanted to get that national record,” Hu said of the 50 free, in which she posted a time of 22.13 seconds, just 0.14 short of the national record.
Oakton (273 points) edged Langley (236) and McLean (190) to win its third consecutive title.
Robinson’s boys (288 points) used a strong finish in the 400-yard freestyle relay and winning performances from sophomores James Jones (50 free, 100 free) and James Murphy (200 free, 500 free) to overcome runner-up Oakton (236) in the boys’ championships. Madison finished third.
The Stanford-bound Hu posted a 53.75 in the 100 backstroke, headlining another strong showing by the Oakton girls, who will try to win their third consecutive Virginia High School League state title in two weeks. Oakton was stunned in the first race of the night — dropping the 200-medley relay to Chantilly — and Langley freshman sensation Bella Rongione won the first individual girls’ event of the night in the 200 free in 1 minute 48.36 seconds.
But the Cougars left little doubt after that. Sophomore Megan Byrnes, who finished second to Rongione in the 200 free, took first place in the 500 free (4:44.92), while junior Laura Branton won the 100 fly (54.71).
Just a year removed from winning its first state title since 2009, Robinson proved it will be a threat to repeat as boys’ champs in two weeks. It also earned redemption against Madison, which upset the Rams last season, behind the steadiness of Murphy, who won the 200 free (1:38.69) by more than three seconds and the 500 free by nine.
“It’s really an emotional battle because we didn’t win [the Norther Region title] last year, but we still won states,” Jones said. “I knew I was going to be a strong contender. . . . I knew, hey, I could probably do better than I did last year.”