Metros Swimming and Diving

Good Counsel Girls Fall at Metros Swimming Championships

By Katie Carrera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 22, 2009

Churchill Coach Rodney Van Tassel told his girls' swimmers all season their 400-yard freestyle was their best relay. Yet despite his encouragement, the Bulldogs never won the event. They had lost three times to Walter Johnson -- in a dual meet, in a divisional meet and most recently at last week's Montgomery County public school championships.

But for the final race of yesterday's Washington Metropolitan Interscholastic Swimming and Diving Championships, the Bulldogs' relay team swam what sophomore anchor Yvonne Huo called "the best race we could have imagined."

With a time of 3 minutes 33.12 seconds, the team of freshmen Natalya Ares and Shannon Ridge, junior Alicia Watkins and Huo earned its first victory of the season to place an exclamation point on Churchill's girls' title as the Bulldogs (414) dethroned 12-time defending Metros champion Good Counsel, which came in second (337.)

"All season, everyone was telling us we had a chance to win Metros," Watkins said. "It was a scary thought though. We haven't been this good ever, and it was scary to think about how it might really be possible."

Churchill earned just two first-place finishes on its way to the title, the 400-yard freestyle relay and the 500-yard freestyle, where Watkins eclipsed her personal best of 5:03 with an automatic all-American time of 4:56.38.

"The great swimmers are dispersed among lots of schools, and I think that's going to be the way it is for a while," Van Tassel said. "For such a long time it was Good Counsel and [Georgetown] Prep and Gonzaga just running away with this meet. Now you start to see the public schools get back into it."

While Churchill upset the traditional power on the girls' side, Georgetown Prep extended its reign as the boys' team to beat with its sixth straight Metros title, edging rival Gonzaga, 433 to 401.5.

The Little Hoyas kicked off the meet with a victory in the 200-yard medley relay and were led by Brady Fox. The senior passed his 2008 mark for a new Metros record in the 100-yard butterfly (48.71) and won the 100-yard backstroke (49.19) but fell short of former teammate Josh Hafkin's meet record of 48.80.

"My first goal was to win the team," said Fox, who will swim at the University of Virginia next year. "I would have liked to set the record, but I've grown up trying to swim like Josh. I was right behind him, and breaking his record would have been a lot of fun, but he set a hard time to beat."

Metros Swimming and Diving Three Times the Fun: The three top teams in the boys' 400-yard free relay easily surpassed the previous meet record of 3:09.76, which was set in 2007 by Georgetown Prep. Gonzaga's Brian Murphy, Brendan Whipkey, Doug Mackenzie and Pat Sullivan finished at 3:05.97, with the Little Hoyas' Jonathan Ekstrom, Matt Thomas, Adam Spencer and Brady Fox not far behind at 3:06.12. Good Counsel's Zack Wepasnick, Michael Foley, Casey Stodter and Kevin Vallaro took third in 3:08.93. Broken Records: Poolesville's Cara Chuang broke her previous Metros and Montgomery County public schools record of 55.62 in the 100-yard backstroke with an automatic all-American time of 55.24. . . . O'Connell's Michael Flach bested the previous Metros record in the 500-yard freestyle that was set in 2000 with his automatic all-American time of 4:26.02. . . . The Good Counsel boys' 200-yard freestyle relay team set a Metros record of 1:25.71.

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