Yorktown's girls team made history last year by defeating perennial power W. T. Woodson for the Virginia AAA Northern Region swimming and diving title. The Patriots' 219-189 conquest marked Woodson's first defeat in 14 years.
This winter, few of the names have changed at either Yorktown or Woodson, so anticipation for the next Northern Regional showdown is already building.
Yorktown lost Nancy Hall, third in the 500-yard freestyle last year. The team had scored most of its points in high placings, capturing four firsts, two seconds and two thirds (of 10 swimming events, neither team scored among the top three in the diving). After Hall, the rest of the medal winners are returning for Yorktown this year.
Woodson, on the other hand, scored the bulk of its points on squad depth, scoring mainly through the lower places, fourth through sixth. The Cavaliers tallied only one first, two seconds and two thirds. The good part for Woodson is that none of its top-three scorers was lost to graduation.
For Yorktown, sophomores set the pace. Christie Smith, who won the 100 butterfly and finished second in the 50 freestyle last year, leads the way along with classmates Devon Hyde, last year's 200 individual medley and 100 backstroke champion; Susan Dudley, who took third in the 100 breaststroke; backstroker Megan McMorrow, Kathy Bovian and diver Jenny Hooper.
Cathy Ackerman and sophomore Cindi Kunihiro will lead Woodson. As a junior, Ackerman, a former Junior National 100 freestyle champion, won that event in the region meet and took second in the 200 IM. Kunihiro handles the sprinting chores, coming off a third as a freshman in the 50 freestyle.
Some of Woodson's depth will come from Liz Shaw, Katherine Keough and Sharon Hall. Returning juniors include Kathy Anderson and Jill Hall, who just recently qualified for the Junior Nationals in United States Swimming. Freshmen Sandy Yatsko, Kara Wuebker and Megan Hall provide promising new talent.
"We've got so much depth, that's the key to our winning ways," said sponsor Sue Kunihiro. Stephan Nickodem is the on-deck coach for the first year. Former coach Bill Lloyd left to pursue a master's degree. "It's going to be a good rematch. We're out for a good meet against Yorktown."
Kunihiro's statement about depth applies to her boys squad as well. But, the defending boys regional champions will have to contend with a solid Lake Braddock squad, which recently finished second in a relay carnival, as well as a bigger and stronger South Lakes unit.
Last year, Woodson eked out a 3.5-point victory over Lake Braddock despite scoring among the top three in only four events, two of which were relays. The Bruins depended on depth for the majority of their points. Two boys, Chris Smith and Brett Cade, brought home a first, two seconds and a third for Lake Braddock, as well as propelling both relays to a first (medley) and a third (freestyle). They graduated, but Coach Diane DiSandro is encouraged by her team's relay carnival finish.
"There were 27 schools there, it's almost like the regionals," said DiSandro. "We'd like to give Woodson a good show in the regionals; I hope we can beat them. It's hard to say, they may have the edge because they have so many winter swimmers. But we look strong, we'll give it a shot."
Returnees include seniors Randy Nixon, Russell Raney and John King plus juniors Andy Schwarz and Lee Smith. Freshman newcomer Stuart Strauss possesses the speed DiSandro needs to compete with Woodson.
For Woodson, junior diver Wes Reed, an all-America last year when he won the regionals by almost 20 points with 486.30, is a leader. It is a young team with only a few seniors, one of whom is Bill Gibney, third in the 100 backstroke last year. His classmates include David Strohsahl, Rich Spencer and Ken Lucas. Also back are junior Jeff Allen and sophomores Fred Lindsey, Ralph Dick and Steve Gibney. Freshmen Kyle Koontz and Jeff Schnores are stepping right in.
South Lakes finished third overall last year. Four Seahawks -- Russ Mitchell, Scott Frederick, Tom Pollock and Kevin Harmon -- scored top-three ratings in eight events.
Unfortunately for Coach Peter Eddy, those four are gone. Eddy is an optimist, though, very positive about his team's chances against Woodson.
"We graduated my front four from last year, but we seemed to pick up some good freshmen, our sophomores grew, my juniors are bigger and I've got two excellent seniors," he said. "Suddenly we've got a good team again. We're not as strong with first-place finishers as we were last year, but we've got much more depth, we're stronger there."
Eddy's ace in the hole is one of the seniors. Greg Clever, former breaststroke standout at Marshall, transferred to South Lakes this year. This time at the regionals, he will be defending his 100 breaststroke title in a blue and green South Lakes suit. Veteran Seahawks with him are seniors Curtis Nysmith and Bill Barid. Junior Ken Bowles, sophomore Chris Hines and freshman Shane Welch join them as the team nucleus.