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Correction to This Article
A Feb. 13 Sports article incorrectly said that South Lakes High School's girls swim team finished second at the Northern Region meet. South Lakes placed third in that event.
Virginia AAA Swimming and Diving

Seahawks, Rams Claim State Crowns

By Rich Campbell
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, February 13, 2005; Page E12

After finishing second at the Virginia AAA Liberty District and Northern Region meets this postseason, South Lakes swimming coach Scott Brown told his girls' team not to panic. He knew the Seahawks' time would come.

A determined Seahawks team proved its coach right by winning the team state title with 221 points to Lake Braddock's 185 yesterday at the Freedom Aquatic Center in Manassas.

Robinson's Drew Finelli races the 500-yard freestyle, finishing first in a state record time of 4 minutes 34.83 seconds. "That last 100, I was just possessed," Finelli said. (Nikki Kahn -- The Washington Post)

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"We have been waiting so long for this," South Lakes junior Mei Christensen said. "We were all pretty motivated to try to win this."

Christensen won the Seahawks' only individual title by finishing first in the 200-yard individual medley with an automatic all-American time of 2 minutes 5.28 seconds. Her performance in the 400 freestyle relay helped the Seahawks finish in 3:33.56, which beat their state record from last year and avenged a loss to Lake Braddock in the event at the Northern Region meet.

"That was beautiful," Brown said of the relay. "I'm extremely happy that the seniors could go out like this."

Robinson's boys easily captured their third consecutive state title by winning eight of 12 events and totaling 300 points to Lake Braddock's 188.5.

"It just gets sweeter and sweeter," Rams junior Drew Finelli said.

Finelli defended his title in the 200 freestyle by finishing in 1:44.44. He also avenged his loss, by 0.39 of a second, in last year's state 500 freestyle race by beating defending champion Alex Anderson of Madison with an automatic all-American and state-record time of 4:34.83.

"That last 100, I was just possessed," Finelli said. "I don't even know what happened because I felt so tired."

Robinson senior Steve Scheren defended his titles in the 50 and 100 freestyle with times of 21.07 and 45.59, respectively. Scheren broke his own state record in the 100 freestyle, and he finished 0.01 shy of the state record in the 50 freestyle.

"Overall, even though the time wasn't where it needed to be, I . . . had a hell of a time," Scheren said. "It was fun. I got the points the team needed, and in the end, that's all that really matters."

The Rams got an unexpected boost before the swimming competition when junior diver Mike Papageorge scored 502.56 points and upset defending state champion Mikey McDonald of W.T. Woodson

"Coming in, I knew I had a shot," Papageorge said. "On any given day, anyone can be the best."

Stonewall Jackson junior Zach Hayden won his first two state titles by finishing the 200 IM in 1:53.99 and the 100 breaststroke in 58.19. His 100 breaststroke time of 57.81 in the preliminaries set a state record.

"It's hard to put into words," Hayden said. "I just came in knowing what I had to do, and I guess I did it."

W.T. Woodson senior Christine Nichols won the 50 and 100 freestyle for the first state titles of her career. Nichols, an all-American in five events, missed last year's state meet to swim at a junior national meet for her club team.

"It was a great way to end an amazing high school career," said Nichols, who won the 100 freestyle in 52.48, 0.02 ahead of Langley's Andrea Balint.

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