For the past four years, W.T. Woodson boys and girls have won the Northern Region championship. But Woodson graduated many excellent swimmers while the other contenders for the Northern Region title this year, including the Lake Braddock and Chantilly boys and Robinson's girls, fortunes seem to be rising.

Among the individuals, Charles Cline of Wakefield, Ralph Vick and Fred Lindsay of W.T. Woodson, Christine Smith of Yorktown, Devon Hyde of Herndon and Jefferson's Lisa Farris have graduated and are now competing on the college level.

"There's a lot of parity this year," said Woodson Coach Stefan Nikodem. "There aren't a lot of superstars as in the past, every team has a couple {of good swimmers}."

Said Chantilly Coach Kevin Foley, "Overall, the girls in the Northern Region are a weaker group then they have been in the past. A lot of outstanding swimmers have graduated. Almost all the people who went first through third in the regional are gone, actually, most of the top six regional placers are gone. It's really spread out. I don't think you'll find teams with six or eight great girls like you used to."

Onlyfive swimmers return from the boys first and second All-Met teams of a year ago (Kris Yaggi, St. Johns; Eric Lichtmann, Wootton; Guy Sandin, W.T.Woodson; Sean Carey, ST. John's and Mike Hutcheson, Madison) and 6 girls from the two All-Met squads are back (Susan Leupold, St. Mary's; Jamie Rugless, Robinson; Melissa Douse,Langley; Peggy Nolan, Holy Cross and Karin Masal, Richard Montgomery)The Cavaliers appear to be weaker than in the past, but, said Robinson Coach Roberta Henry, "they still have the edge. It's Woodson by far, they still have the point getters."

Until five years ago Starlit Aquatic club, which was adjacent to Woodson, attracted many prominent swimmers who also swam for the high school. "They moved into the Woodson area to be near Starlit and they, of course, went to the school," said Nickoden. Starlit was torn down but the swimmers are still coming.

"The reason we'll still have good swimmers is because of the summer programs feeding us, Somerset-Old Creek and Rutherford," said Nickoden. "Woodson will be good for a number of years to come even without Starlit."

But for the present, Nikodem prefers to downplay his team's chances.

"This year is going to be very tough, we're not quite as strong as in years past," he said. "No one is coming in to take the graduates' spots. We'll still be in there at the end, but it'll be a question, whereas, last year, we were pretty sure about winning. We're not overwhelmingly the best, we'll have to work at it. This has been happening for a couple of years now. For two years in a row now, we've had no strong freshman, and we've graduated 30 seniors over the past two years."

A slew of new names will be leading the Cavaliers. For the boys, junior Dave Copeland, seniors Kyle Koontz, Bill Armstrong and diver Guy Sandin, and sophomores Justin Smith and Tom Blakeman are the core of the squad. On the girls team, nationally competitive swimmers junior Kirsten Kunstel and Kikki Steinberg set the pace. Celeste Cordova heads the divers and Carolyn Waebeker and Pam McMains back up Kunstel and Steinberg.

"When it comes down to the dual meets, the boys with Lake Braddock and the girls with Robinson, if one swimmer goofs, that's who loses the meet because they're all even on paper," said Nikodem. "If my team wants to do it, they can, but they'll have to rise to the occasion. Last year we could afford to mess up, but not this year."

Lake Braddock's boys, which finished second to Woodson by over 100 points in the regional meet last year, are on the rebound. The Bruins are led by Mike Riccoboni in the individual medley and backstroke, David Martinez in distance freestyle, Andrew and Stuart Strauss in the sprints, Scott Erb in the breaststroke and Mike Rush in the butterfly.

For Chantilly, senior Scott Santucci, senior Vince Camarcino and sophomore Rodney Van Tassell head a group which makes Foley optimistic. And one of the motivating factors will be the fact that after winning the district title twice in a row, the Chargers lost last year.

"This will probably be our best year," he said. "We're more top heavy than we've been in the past, we only lost one senior last year. I suppose a team is expected to lose their best swimmers each year, but that hasn't happened to us. We'll do well this year."

Of an anticipated final match-up between the Chargers, Woodson and Lake Braddock, Foley said, "that'll be interesting. All three are pretty well rounded. Probably the other two are stronger than we are on paper but that doesn't tell everything when it comes to the regional."

While Chantilly's girls are a young squad on the whole (only two seniors and two juniors of 30 athletes), Foley is also expecting a winning season, at least a defense of last year's district crown. Among the team leaders are sophomore Jenni Abell, sophomore Jennifer Bouck and freshman Alison Gallagher.

Robinson's girls situation is the direct antithesis to that of Woodson. It's the end result of four year's of growth and replenishment.

Most of them started out as freshman and they just seemed to keep going," said Coach Henry. "Each year another class would add to them.

Since the seniors were freshman, Robinson has consistently performed among the top girls team in the region, except last year. A pair of unfortunate disqualifications in the district hampered their chances in the region although the Rams were legitimate contenders.

"We're going to try to avoid those things this year," said Henry. "We've got a couple of outstanding swimmers but the rest are more of the type who are very good and it's sort of across the board like that. These girls have been very strong the last four years."

Senior Jamie Rugless heads the talented team. Joining her are seniors Karen Ramthun, Jennifer Lumbard, twins Michele and Aileen Bryla and sophomore Erica Berg and freshman Lesley Chenault.

Some of the other top swimmers in the Northern Region include sprinter Tyson Lewis from Marshall; Madison's Mike Hutcheson and Kim Sargent; West Potomac's Rob McGuckin and Nick Weis; Jeff Kruger of Jefferson; Kirsten Yauch and Erica Bledsoe of Yorktown; Langley's Melissa Douse, Amy Batchelder and Colleen Quinn; Lake Braddock's Erin Jones and Rhonda Reiser; and from West Springfield, Libby McCardle, Neal Hothschild and transfer Scott Spirek. Nikki Marshall of Lake Braddock and Guy Sandin of Woodson are among the top divers in the area.