Handley boys, Sherando girls win NWD meet
WINCHESTER — A little more participation — and a little more lifting — finally helped the Handley boys’ swimming team lift the championship trophy at the Northwestern District Swim Meet.
With each team winning in dominant fashion, the Handley boys won their first district title since 2006 while the Sherando girls captured their fourth consecutive district title Friday night at the War Memorial Building.
The Handley boys scored 155 points to put away two-time defending champion Millbrook (117), while the Sherando girls maintained its stranglehold on the Northwestern District by scoring 168 points to runner-up Handley’s 107. Both of Friday’s winners were also district regular season champions.
“We just had a lot of [time drops] today,” Handley coach Tag Grove said. “That’s one thing we’ve been talking about forever, but especially with these guys, there was more of a commitment in the weight room this year, and they really got out and pushed it.
“At practice, there was more of a commitment. They were just really just focused on these goals that we’ve been talking about since the beginning of the season.”
Handley’s solid all-around effort was led by senior Taylor Watts, who won his third consecutive district title in the 100-meter freestyle with a time of 57.78 seconds.
His freshman brother Carter took the 100 backstroke in 1:07.27, the Handley 200 medley relay team of the Watts brothers, Alex Johnson and William Yuan opened the meet with a win in 2:03.43, and the 400 free relay team of the Watts brothers, Yuan and Alex Day closed the meet with a victory in 4:04.08.
Taylor Watts also said the work in the weight room paid off, and the addition of former Handley swimmer Greg Vossler to the coaching staff helped keep them motivated to build their bodies up.
“I’m pretty proud of the boys,” Watts said. “They worked hard the whole year and got up early every morning. We got a lot of commitment from a lot of people.”
Others who won events on the boys side were, for Millbrook: Mark Graham (the 50 free in a state time of 25.69 seconds), Alex Morrow (the 400 free, where he repeated as champ in 4:46.21) and the 200 free relay team of Chris Patton, Chris Wiens, Hunter Doherty and Mark Graham in 1:49.81. James Wood had two double winners: Brian Baker in the 200 individual medley (2:27.55) and 100 breaststroke (1:14.98); and Conor Babington in the 200 free (2:11.53) and 100 butterfly (1:05.23).
Though Baker will take the wins, he’s got bigger goals in mind.
“I’ve got the next two meets [regionals and states] to look forward to,” said Baker, who did not reach his top times in the events he won. “I’m not swimming my best right now, but I definitely had to push myself. It was fun.”
For the Sherando girls, it’s starting to get to the point where championships are a given. But the reason for the Warriors success is that they’re never satisfied, and they once again got contributions from numerous places to win.
“It’s been the same thing all year long, and that’s the depth of our team,” Sherando coach Joe Knight said. “Our swimmers got those critical third-, fourth- and fifth-place spots, and got the points that we needed.
“We had some girls, especially some of the younger girls, our freshmen and sophomores, drop time across the board tonight, which we were really happy with. I’m particularly pleased with [senior] Christina Lee. She’s been a leader and a stalwart on our team for the last four years. For her to win the 200 free early in the meet was very big for us.”
Lee won the 200 free in 2:25.89, more than a second and a half better than two other swimmers who went on to win district individual titles of their own — Handley’s Aleksa Putnam (first in the 400 free in 5:20.78) and Millbrook’s Katie Kozlowski (first in the 100 breaststroke in 1:22.75, an event she won at districts two years ago).
Sherando also received two individual wins from junior Kelsey Dingman (first in the 100 free in 1:05.14 and first in the 50 free in a state time of 29.14, repeating as district champ in both) and also got a win from its 200 free relay (2:03.66).
“It’s really exciting that we won districts again,” Dingman said. “In this past week, we just really prepared well. What really makes a difference for us is our depth.”
Other individuals who won were Handley’s Liz Grove in the 200 IM (she defended her title in 2:34.98) and Haley Morefield in the 100 backstroke (1:13.98) and Millbrook’s Taylor Linder in the 100 butterfly (a state time of 1:10.67).
Handley (Morefield, Grove, Putname and Eileen Wilkerson) won the 200 medley relay in 2:14.34 and Millbrook won the 400 free relay in 4:38.57.
After winning the 200 IM, Liz Grove was sat out for the rest of the meet as a precaution. Tag Grove said she experienced breathing difficulties after that event, the meet’s sixth.
Though Liz Grove certainly would have liked to finish the meet, Kozlowski couldn’t have been happier with how the meet ended. The team of Sarah Jeffries, McKenzie Schrank, Kozlowski and Linder improved on their best time by eight seconds to take the 400 free relay.
“Our relay, that has been something that we’ve struggled with all season,” Kozlowski said. “But to have the four of us come together for one good race was amazing. An eight-second drop is really exciting.”
Kozlowski has also been one of the state’s better breaststrokers throughout her career, advancing to the Saturday finals at the state meet two years ago, and she feels she’s ready to finish strong.
“This year I feel more confident with my training,” said Kozlowski, who won the 100 breaststroke by almost nine seconds. “Today’s race was the perfect way to end my high school district [career], because I swam it against [Sherando’s] Alexis English. She’s the girl who pushed me to swim my first state time my freshman year, so to have her there at the end was really cool.”
Millbrook coach Will Sigler said seeing Kozlowski and her teammates in the 400 free relay couldn’t have made him happier.
“That last relay made my night,” Sigler said. “The girls stepped up and had an awesome win. I hope they do really well in regions.”
Though James Wood finished last in each competition, James Wood coach Kristy Hartbauer said Friday’s meet was an encouraging sign for the future. She said everyone who qualified for the Region II meet will be back next year.
“We had a lot of kids who weren’t expected to make regionals make regionals,” she said. “We weren’t expecting the 200 freestyle relay for the boys to make it to regionals, and they did particularly well. A lot of people shaved time.”
The top five individuals and top two relays in each event advanced to the Region II meet at Fork Union Military Academy on Feb. 9.
For more detailed results, see Monday’s edition of The Winchester Star.
— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at email@example.comFollow on Twitter @WinStarSports1