Gar-Field senior Brett MacLennan has given Coach Rob Knoeppel a career's worth of memories with his seemingly countless dramatic victories and record-breaking swims. So it may be a bit surprising that when considering MacLennan's four seasons at the school, Knoeppel looks back upon a loss with the most fondness.
It was last year at the Cardinal District championships. MacLennan had broken two meet records with victories in the 200-yard individual medley and 200 freestyle and swam a leg in the Indians' winning 200 medley relay.
But in the final event of the day, the 400 freestyle relay, MacLennan could not make up a sizable deficit during his anchor leg, and the Indians placed second in the event. The runner-up finish meant Gar-Field's two-year reign as district champion was over. Woodbridge won the district title, and MacLennan took the loss hard.
"Brett was a double-winner, he set two meet records, and he swam his tail off in both relays, so there was nothing he could have done better," Knoeppel said. "But he was really emotional and disappointed for the other kids, and that's something that I admire. He's the epitome of a team player -- he cares more about team success than individual success. He has meant so much to us. There's so much more than his talent."
And MacLennan's talent is considerable. Knoeppel calls the two-time All-Extra boys' swimmer of the year the best he has seen in his eight years at Gar-Field and arguably the best ever to come through Prince William County. It's hard to argue with the numbers.
MacLennan holds school records in all eight boys' individual events and swam a leg on all three of the Indians' record-setting relays. He also holds six records in the 17-18 division of his club team, Occoquan Swimming.
"In swimming, I think it's rare to find an athlete who can specialize in any event," Knoeppel said. "Usually they become sprinters or long-distance freestylers or IM-ers. I could enter Brett in any event in the state championship."
MacLennan, who started swimming at age 3 when he lived in California, has all the tools of a typical standout swimmer. He has a long and lean build, with 170 pounds on a 6-foot-3 frame. He has a work ethic coaches dream about. And he has a fierce will to win.
"I love the competitiveness," MacLennan said. "I just love to race."
MacLennan also is a student of the sport. He is able to analyze his races and break them down -- especially longer events. He often swims the 1,650 in club meets.
"Brett really understands the speed he's swimming in the water," Knoeppel said. "I know that sounds stupid, but he knows his pace. He really is the whole package."
Next year MacLennan will continue his career at one of several top 25 swimming schools: University of California-Santa Barbara, University of South Carolina, Florida State or Ohio State.
"All of them are great schools," said MacLennan, who has been offered a full scholarship to UCSB. "I just have to figure out which team I like best."
The team he likes best at the moment is Gar-Field, and on Saturday at the Chinn Center, MacLennan hopes to help the Indians regain the district crown.
"I'd say about 30 percent of swimming for me is individual," MacLennan said. "The other part is the team aspect."