Athletes are expected to make sacrifices for their sports, and local high school swimmers make their share and then some.
Regular season meets for most of the 22 area indoor high school swimming teams ended last week and Northern Virginia swimmers, a hardy bunch, are preparing for upcoming district, regional and state competition.
Because there are few indoor swimming pools in Northern Virginia, swim teams often must travel long distances for practices and meets. Practices, three days a week, frequently must be conducted simultaneously by two or three teams. They rarely last more than an hour three days a week.
Only two Arlington County schools - Wakefield and Washington-Lee - have swimming pools and no Fairfax County high schools have pools. Most Fairfax County teams practice at Wakefield Park in Springfield where they pay an annual rental fee.
At most schools, team members are assessed a participation fee because funding is not provided for swim teams by the Fairfax County school board.
There are at least two other unusual aspects of scholastic swimming. First, in meets, boys' and girls' team scores are combined for a team total. Second, the numerous youngsters who swim for private clubs also can compete for their school teams if they hold a national qualifying time, according to Woodson High School swimming coach Art Willis.
The Woodson anc Lake Braddock Secondary School teams are considered two of the area's top swim teams. At Woodson, there are 70 students on the team, including 13 who compete exclusively in diving.
Each Woodson team member pays about $25; the money is used for swim suits, transportation and a $1,100 to $1,200 rental fee to Fairfax County for use of the indoor pool at Wakefield Park, Willis said. The team also netted about $1,000 in a swim-a-thorn in the fall and used that money to buy warm-ups. The money, according to Willis, will help finance trips to the state meet in three weeks.
At Lake Braddock, with a team of 47 swimmers and eight divers, first-year coach Jane Grier has combined financial assistance from the athletic department with fund-raising activities, including a swim-athon which netted about $1,800, to eliminate the practice of assessing team members.
Both Woodson and Lake Braddock have a high percentage of swimmers who give up participation in private club competition to swim for their school from November through the end of February. But Woodson has two national qualifiers competing - senior Liza Nencioni, a breast stroke qualifier, and junior Fran Johnson, a mile qualifier.
Lake Braddock has a strong diving team, led by Laura Vahouney, who has not been beaten in five regular season meets. Grier says her team's overall dept is its strongest point. The Lake Braddock swimmers have broken at least one school record in every meet, and they broke seven in competition against West Springfield recently.
In other sports related news:
O'CONNELL HIGH SCHOOL: O'Connell principal Al Burch says he has "sent a check" to the Virginia High School League and has asked when he can begin scheduling athletic competition against area public schools. O'Connell recently won a court start playing against public schools this spring, but Burch has yet to receive a go ahead from the league.
Area public school coaches, as well as Burch, are hoping scheduling permission will come soon, because O'Connell's entrance is likely to mean some district realignment. "No one can do a thing until we know where O'Connell will play," said one football coach.
LANGLEY HIGH SCHOOL: Against Marshall last Friday night, guard Dough Newburg showed just why he is considered the primary reason for Langley's basketball success this year. Although Newburgh scored only two points, he controlled his team on offense and defense while Marshall played a slow-down game. When Marshall was forced to run in the fourth quarter, Newburg made several key plays, including a smooth behind-the-back assist en route to a 50-42 Langley win.
It was a good time for a strong performance for Newburg, because a University of Virginia scout was in the stands.
ROBINSON SECONDARY SHOOL: Robinson recently joined Woodson and Lake Braddock as the only Northern Virginia public schools to have lacrosse teams.