A quick shower might have made the difference Saturday in Yorktown senior Meghan Thiel's performance in the 500-meter freestyle race at the Virginia AAA Swimming and Diving meet.
At Princess Anne Recreation Center in Virginia Beach, where the meet was held, there was not an extra pool in which swimmers could warm up or warm down immediately before or after their races. They did have such a setup at the Northern Region meet at Oak Marr Recreation Center in Oakton, where Thiel and her teammates swam last week.
So just before Saturday's 500, Thiel took a shower. She then swam a time of 5 minutes 26.07 seconds to win the event by more than six seconds and shatter the national-record time of 5:34.15 that she had set in Friday's preliminaries.
"One of the main differences was I actually took a shower right before [the race] to get myself going," Thiel said. "I hadn't done that before, and it made a big difference. It got my heart going."
It was Thiel's third consecutive state title in the 500. She also placed fourth in the 200 freestyle after winning the event at the Northern Region meet.
Anatomy of a Comeback
In terms of sheer excitement, Jefferson sophomore Jenny Basel's come-from-behind victories in the 100 breaststroke and 200 freestyle Saturday were hard to top.
Basel trailed top-seeded Lauren Brick of Culpeper by about half a body length at the midway point of the 100 breaststroke, but that was right where she wanted to be.
"She's a really good sprinter," Basel said of Brick. "I felt like if I could just stay with her through the first 50, I had a good chance."
Basel started to close the gap in the third length of the 100. She passed Brick by the final turn and blazed down the stretch to post a time of 1:11.12, just six-hundredths of a second off the national record.
Basel's most stunning comeback came during the 200 freestyle. Basel assumed she was in first place throughout the race because of the lead she held on both Caroline Bellis of South Lakes, the top seed in the race, and Thiel, who won the event at last week's Northern Region meet. But until the final turn, Basel had not looked across three lanes at Stephanie Jones of First Colonial, who had forged what seemed to be a comfortable lead.
"I was concentrating on lanes four [Bellis] and five [Thiel]," Basel said. "When I saw [Jones], I was like, 'Oh my goodness.' Then I just went after her."
Basel steamed through the final 25 meters and touched out Jones by one one-hundredth of a second. Her time of 2:03.69 broke the national high school record in the event.
Freshmen Michael Balint of Jefferson and Andy Pelenberg of Annandale both won state titles Saturday to complete triple crowns.
Balint won the AAA 50 freestyle title to go with his Concorde District and Northern Region titles. Pelenberg won the 100 breaststroke to go with his Patriot District and Northern Region titles.