A water skiing accident last July left David Daigler of Oakton High facing orthropedic knee surgery and, he was told, the end of his high jumping career.
A 6-foot-3, 195-pound senior, he instead accepted the surgery as a great motivation. This winter he is consistently jumping six inches higher than last winter and he hopes Friday's Northern District meet at George Mason could lead to a state championship.
He won the prestigious George Mason Invitational last month with a personal-best 6 feet 8 1/2 inches. He has reached that mark four other times in becoming one of the few stars for Coach Drexell George's Cougars, who have not won an indoor dual meet in three seasons.
"The doctors told him after the accident that he would probably never be able to jump again," George said. "When he came back to school, he said to me, 'I want to jump 6-8 indoors.' I told him, 'Let's just see if you can jump at all.' "
Daigler, a defensive back on the Cougars football team, is within an half-inch of the year's best marks posted by prep jumpers in Virginia.
Since there is no Virginia state swimming championship, the school that wins the Northern Region, annually home of the state's top individuals and teams, is generally looked upon as the state's elite. In 14 of the last 15 years, that school has been W.T. Woodson.
Although Yorktown, the only team to disrupt Woodson's streak, has a powerful team this season, the Cavaliers have shown few signs they won't repeat in the Feb. 21 and 22 regionals at Wakefield Park.
Woodson's boys and girls are both 5-0 in dual meets this season, neither allowing an opponent to come within 30 points.
Last weekend, the Cavaliers won the combined team title of the Emory Invititational meet in Atlanta as the girls finished second by two points to an Atlanta club, and the boys finished third.
"We have a lot of depth with no real weak spots," said Sue Kunihiro, the team's sponsor.
Senior Wes Reed broke the Emory meet one-meter diving record with 513 points. The previous record was 488.
Junior Ralph Vick was first in the 500-yard freestyle in 4:47.59, and second in the 200 free (1:45.25).
Leading the girls was Jill Hall, who took a third in the 100 freestyle and a sixth in the 200 free.
West Springfield's Sheri Susi and Robinson's Cherylynn Lillvik are good friends in and away from the gymnastics arena, but Susi still wondered if she would ever beat Lillvik, considered to be the region's, and possibly the state's, best all-around gymnast.
Two weeks ago at the North-South Invitational meet at Lake Braddock, Susi, a junior, excelled in winning the beam, her weakest event, and took advantage of Lillvik's error in the vault to win the all-around title with a score of 35.95.
"She was very pleased to finally beat Cherylynn," said West Springfield Coach Gerry Royals. "Although Sheri wasn't particularly pleased with her own performance, she saw Cherylynn's performance in the floor exercises (which Lillvik won) and said it was great. They are simply each other's best supporters."
After going to the state meet as a freshman, Susi did not compete for the Spartans last year because she concentrated on her private club performances.
"Her two best events are bars and vault, and beam has been her most difficult," said Royals, in his 11th year as West Springfield coach. "She is definitely proving to be full-scholarship material. She is as good as any girl I have ever had here."