West Springfield's 200-yard medley relay team, with junior Bryan Coapstick swimming the anchor leg, passed top-seeded Lake Braddock 15 yards from the finish to win in 1 minute 41.71 seconds to kick off the VISCA State Invitational finals last night at Oak Marr Recreation Center in Oakton.

In the next boys event, Sean Lichtenberger of West Potomac almost made it two straight upsets. Seeded fifth out of the morning's 200-yard individual medley trials, he churned past all but winner Andy Faberelle of Herndon, falling shy, 1:59.67 to 1:59.84. Lichtenberger came back and set a meet record of 59.84 in the 100 breaststroke.

The VISCA invitational brings together the best in Virginia high school swimming, drawing teams from across the state, and had the feel of a state championship. According to Virginia high school rules, three regions must hold championships before a sport can be a state sport and so far only Northern Virginia holds regional competition.

"I really wish there were a state championships in Virginia. I think we have enough schools to warrant it," said Kecoughtan Coach Errol Duplessis. Kecoughtan is in Hampton, and except for this meet swimmer Kurt Jachimowski will not get a chance this season to go against Northern Virginia stalwarts. He beat them, winning the 200 freestyle in 1:42.12 and the 500 freestyle in 4:36.94, each a meet record by two seconds or more.

"We came here rather than ODU {invitational}," said Duplessis. "It's a better meet, faster times, more competitive."

Said meet director Joe Smith, coach at Herndon: "By the time I retire in five years we're going to have a state meet."

The swimmers, for their part, swam as if it were a state meet.

Allison Gallagher of Chantilly beat top seed Janney Hoof of Flint Hill in the 200 freestyle. Hoof swam a meet record 1:54.95 in the trials; Gallagher lowered it to 1:54.68 in the final.

In the girls 200 individual medley, Sarah Leonard of Patrick Henry and Katherine Kerr of Kecoughtan kept foiling each other's attempts to secure breathing room. Kerr led through butterfly and backstroke, then Leonard took over on the breaststroke, by half a body length. Kerr came back in the freestyle to win the IM, 2:12.75 to 2:12.83.

While all swimmers here have Olympic aspirations, there was one whose dreams might come true a little sooner than the others. Faberelle, who also won the 100 butterfly, in 50.94 for a meet record, was born in Puerto Rico. "Hopefully," he said, "I'll be on the {Puerto Rican national} team for the Pan Am Games next year and the '92 Olympics."

This meet, he said, "had a different feel" than the Northern Virginia championship meets another month away. It more closely resembles the big U.S. meets in which he competes for Solotar, with many unfamiliar swimmers, each race a true competitive experience.

Gretchen Von Oeson of E.C. Glass took the girls 50 and 100 freestyle events. Her school, in Lynchburg, was runner-up to Roanoke's Patrick Henry for the girls team title, with Robinson third. West Springfield, Lake Braddock and W.T. Woodson were one-two-three in the boys.