CHARLOTTESVILLE -- Andy Mears stood on the pool deck Saturday at the Virginia AA/A Swim and Dive Championships cheering his Potomac Falls teammates. He wore a Potomac Falls swimming warm-up suit and on his head a reminder that his high school career is coming to an end.
Mears wore the red cap backward, the word "Terps" scripted on it in black. Although he is eager to begin swimming at the University of Maryland next season and take his talent to new heights, his stamp on the Panthers' swimming program won't be forgotten soon.
Potomac Falls dominated the AA Dulles District during the tenure of Mears and Matt McLean, who graduated in 2006. Both won multiple individual state championships and helped the Panthers extend their streak of consecutive district team titles to six. Saturday, with McLean in the stands, Mears won the state 200-yard championship and helped the Panthers boys finish fifth, the best in program history.
"Andy was a huge contributor to the program at Potomac Falls," Coach Holly Ward said. "We'll all miss him so much next year. He and Matt set an example and a standard for the boys, both individually and as a team. They've led the team to where it is today."
Mears won the 200 freestyle title in 1 minute 42.5 seconds. Although the 200 freestyle is his best event, he didn't swim it at last year's state meet because McLean did and won in 1:40.37.
Mears was thrilled to win, but his eye toward the future showed when he spoke about his time. Mears wanted to break 1:42, but he still beat the second-place finisher by almost four seconds.
"I'm confident that if I had more of a race, I could have gone faster," Mears said.
Mears finished third in his attempt to defend his 100 freestyle crown but swam a personal-best 46.74 (he won with 47.56 last season).
"It was a great swim," Ward said. "I attribute that to him having some good competition. He had people to race."
Relaxed Ritter TriumphsA relaxed approach helped Dominion senior Lauren Ritter win the 200-yard freestyle championship on her fourth try. After finishing second twice and third once, Ritter was determined not to put pressure on herself. It worked. She finished in 1:53.60, 3 1/2 seconds ahead of Grafton's Brittany Evans. She later set the state record in the 500 freestyle (4:55.26) and won that event for the fourth time.
"I'm happy that I finally won" the 200, Ritter said. "It wasn't a best time, but I'm okay with that. I did what I came here to do in this race."
Ritter trailed by 0.12 of a second at the halfway point, but she took over before the 150-yard mark and pulled away.
"I tried to relax and not think when I was racing," she said. "I felt a lot looser instead of tight and anxious."
News and NotesLiberty senior Jennifer Norman placed sixth in the 200 freestyle in a personal-best 2:00.45. . . . Broad Run's Ben Lucas was the top area finisher in the 200 individual medley. He finished eighth (2:03.25) after coming in 14th last year. . . .
Park View freshman Amber Kerico placed ninth in the 100 breaststroke (1:11.71). She finished second in the event at the Dulles District meet. . . .
Potomac Falls sophomore Kirby Shook finished third in the 100 backstroke (1:00.35). . . . Briar Woods's eighth-place finish in the girls' 400-yard freestyle relay and Kelsey Atkinson's 10th-place finish in the 200 individual medley helped the Falcons finish 16th in the team standings.