February has been a good month for O'Connell junior Kate Ziegler. First, she set an American record two weeks ago at a World Cup event in New York. Last night at the season-ending Metros championship meet at the Montgomery Aquatic Center in Rockville, Ziegler set a national independent high school record in the 500-yard freestyle, touching the wall in 4 minutes 37.67 seconds, bettering Janelle Atkinson's time of 4:37.91, set in 1999.
Despite Ziegler's heroics, Good Counsel dominated the girls' team competition for the ninth year in a row. The Falcons won eight of the 12 events, led by junior Liz Kemp, who was victorious in each of the four events she entered. Good Counsel finished with 322 points, ahead of second-place O'Connell (238) and third-place Richard Montgomery (180).
O' Connelll's Kate Ziegler looks to the ceiling after winning the 500-yard freestyle.
(Michael Temchine - For The Washington Post)
The boys' team championship came down to a tight race between DeMatha and Georgetown Prep. The Little Hoyas had already fallen twice to the Stags during the regular season, once in a head-to-head competition and then again two weeks ago at the WMPSSDL championships.
This time, Georgetown Prep was able to hold off DeMatha for a second consecutive Metros title. The Hoyas totaled 278.5 points, followed by the Stags with 278. Walter Johnson finished third with 196.5.
But Ziegler's 500 was the biggest story last night.
"I heard people yelling and I thought, 'I must be kind of close,' " Ziegler said of the end of her record-setting race. "All my goals and all my hard work coming into this; to get these results, it's been quite a trip."
From the beginning of her race, Ziegler was swimming alone. Despite the solitude, she was able to keep pushing toward the record.
"I just try to swim my own race no matter if someone is ahead of me or behind me," said Ziegler, who also captured the 200 freestyle title and was named swimmer of the meet. "You can't help but do well when you have all your friends with you."
Janet Evans holds the overall national high school record in the 500 at 4:37.30.
From the outset, there was little doubt that Good Counsel's girls would continue their reign over Metros. The Falcons led off the opening 200 medley relay with a meet-record 1:49.32 and never slowed down. Sophomore Colleen Haase notched an emphatic win in the 200 individual medley (2:06.59) and followed that up later in the evening by winning the 100 breaststroke in a record 1:04.11.
Kemp also was dominant, winning the 50 freestyle in 23.5 seconds, missing out on a meet record by .01 of a second. She also won the 100 butterfly in 55.96 a year after being disqualified in the event.
"I came in a little nervous, but this year was a much better meet for me than last year," Kemp said. "There's a little pressure to win, but [winning] never gets old."
Throughout the night in the boys' races, the competition between DeMatha and Prep was fierce, with both teams routinely chanting and pumping up their teammates.
Prep sophomore Josh Hafkin provided wins in the 100 freestyle (47.03) and 100 backstroke (51.00) as the Little Hoyas got strong performances throughout their lineup on a night they had been looking forward to all season.
"We're like Duke, they don't care much in the preseason, they wait for the Final Four," Hafkin said. "This is March Madness right here."
Walter Johnson's Daniel Mengering and Adrian Astiz also stood out, both winning twice. Mengering took the 200 and 500 freestyle races, and Astiz captured the 100 butterfly and 100 breaststroke.
St. Albans diver Matt Cooper set a new meet record, amassing 551.7 points in the competition, outdistancing his nearest competition by nearly 125 points.