McDonough's quest for a second consecutive Maryland State Invitational boys' swimming championship got off to a nightmarish start Saturday at Fairland Aquatic Center in Laurel.
In the 200-yard medley relay, the opening event, McDonough's foursome finished third. The Rams' team was disqualified, however, because of an illegal action, so McDonough received no points for the event instead of the 32 awarded to the third-place finisher in a relay.
Those points meant the difference between first and second place.
McDonough compiled 251 points and was runner-up to Bowie of Prince George's County by 18. Calvert (222) and Northern (219) were third and fourth.
McDonough Coach Chris Hammond said her boys were disappointed but accepted the result with class.
"I was really impressed with how they handled it," Hammond said. "It's a sport, and it's fun to win, yeah. But that type of situation is really why we have sports. It teaches kids how to deal with things like that."
Bowie swept the meet, as its girls compiled 273 points to edge Laurel of Prince George's County by 10. Northern's girls were Southern Maryland's top finishers, scoring 243 points for third while McDonough (206) placed fourth and Westlake (201) fifth.
The silver lining for McDonough's boys is that they can still defend their Southern Maryland Athletic Conference title. The SMAC meet, postponed due to inclement weather and in danger of being canceled, is to be made up at 5 p.m. March 7 at Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex.
"Saturday's meet was an invitational, so we approached it with the attitude that it was for fun," Hammond said. "SMAC is a little different because that's our conference. We'd have felt a little worse" if the disqualification occurred in the SMAC meet.
The SMAC meet will have added significance for McDonough because the Rams' double-dual meet with Patuxent and Calvert will not be made up, Hammond said. Patuxent and Calvert were the area's only other unbeaten boys' teams.
"Since we don't get to finish the [regular] season off, this is our only chance to defeat those other teams," Hammond said.
McDonough senior Jon Michela led the Rams Saturday by anchoring their victorious 400-yard freestyle relay and dominating individual events. Michela swam the 200 individual medley in 2 minutes 8.66 seconds to win by nearly 13 seconds, and he finished the 500 free in 5:11.01 to win by more than nine seconds and break the meet record.
Rams' freshman Camden Fuller was runner-up in the 100 backstroke and fifth in the 200 free, and senior Dan Darby and junior Brian Boyle placed second and third, respectively, in the 50 free. Boyle was also third in the 100 butterfly.
Northern freshman Brittany Lee led the Patriots' girls' team to its third-place finish. She cruised in the 500 free in 5:31.05, a school record and 19.3 seconds faster than the runner-up.
"She's really remarkable," said Northern Coach Kandy Spain. "She just likes to get started and get ahead and then she just keeps the lead."
Most impressive about Lee's 500, however, was that she did not swim as hard as she could have. Lee wanted to save energy to go after the meet record in the 100 backstroke. She set that record, winning in 1:04.05.
Siblings Matt and Kacy Cribbs established new Northern records in the 100 breaststroke. Matt won in 1:05.82, and Kacy was second in the girls' race in 1:19.84. Matt also won the 50 free in 23.08.
Westlake junior Laura Halsey won the 100 butterfly and placed runner-up in the 100 free, while Thomas Stone senior Heather Vance won the girls' 50 free and placed third in the 100 free.