Swim outlook: Area teams anticipate big things
Posted: December 14, 2012
WINCHESTER — The last five seasons have seen some pretty noticeable performances in the area swim scene.
In 2008, the Handley boys placed fifth at the Group AA/A state meet, a program best. One year later, Ben Grove won the first individual state title in area history, capturing the first of his two 100-yard breaststroke state titles en route to a collegiate career at Navy, where the Midshipmen junior is coming off a summer that saw him qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Perhaps the 2012-13 season will see another breakthrough. Junior Kelsey Dingman is back for Sherando, and the area’s first-ever girls’ individual state title could be hers for the taking.
Dingman, The Winchester Star Girls’ Swimmer of the Year last season, placed sixth in the Group AA/A state meet last year in the 50-yard freestyle in a time of 25.10 seconds, this after placing fourth in the preliminaries in 25.04 seconds.
Only one girl who placed in front of Dingman in both the preliminaries and finals wasn’t a senior. And in an event like the 50 free, where anything can happen, Dingman figures to have as good a shot of winning as anyone.
“Last year’s performance was a breakthrough for her,” said Sherando coach Joe Knight of Dingman, who claimed the school’s first Region II title in that event last year as well. “She’s determined to build off of that. The 50 free can be a crapshoot, so if she’s swimming well that day, it can happen.”
Dingman — who also placed 14th in the 100 free — headlines a Sherando team that might be even better than the one that claimed its third straight Northwestern District regular season and meet titles last year.
Dingman was the Warriors’ only state qualifier last year, but senior Christina Lee has already qualified for states in the 100 butterfly, and Knight is excited by the addition of several talented freshmen — all of whom can excel at multiple strokes — to a team that lost just one senior.
The girls’ district race does figure to be competitive though — just 22 points separated first and last place last year, and Handley figures to have a particularly strong team.
On the boys’ side, Millbrook — the two-time defending district regular season and meet champions — figures to once again duke it out, but Sherando and James Wood might be stronger than last year.
The Pioneers will no longer have the services of Winchester Star Boys’ Swimmer of the Year Thomas Northrup (graduation), as well as the area’s only other swimmer to advance to the finals at last year’s state meet, Michael Span. He and his mother, former Millbrook head coach Eileen Span, have moved to Laguna Hills, Calif., where Eileen is coaching a USA team owned by a two-time Olympian from Ecuador, Felipe Delgado. Will Sigler, an assistant the last five years at Millbrook, assumes the head position.
At Clarke County, the Eagles’ boys might finish in the middle of the Bull Run District after suffering several losses. But Eagles coach Carol Marshall believes her girls are ready to take a run at district power George Mason with state qualifiers Emily Deem and Marylee Gowdy back, not to mention the addition of Giulia Invernizzi, an exchange student from Italy who excels at distance swimming.
Coach: Joe Knight, 8th year.
Last year: Boys: 3rd in Northwestern District meet; Girls: Northwestern District regular season and meet champions, 10th in Region II.
Key losses: Boys: Andrew Summers, Rei Sturm, Mark McAuliffe, Dennis Madrano; Girls: Jeni Massie.
Key returnees: Boys: Mark Restrepo, Jr., James Williams, Jr., Tommy McVey, Jr., Jason Lee, Sr., Adam Dubrueler, Jr., Andrew Mathew, Jr.; Girls: Kelsey Dingman, Jr., Christina Lee, Sr., Alexis English, Sr., Amber Lapsley, Sr., Kasey Johnson, Sr., Taylor Waterman, Sr., Laura Ferguson, So., Brenna Sharp, Jr., Genesis Utz, So., Clare Milburn, So.
Top newcomers: Boys: Ethan Madrano, Fr., Jeremy Linaburg, Fr., Hunter Kriz, Fr., Joshua Knight, Fr., Caleb Pearson, Jr., Andrew Mullan, Jr.; Girls: Victoria Reese, Fr., Christine Sears, So., Kelsie Utz, Fr.
Outlook: For Knight, he doesn’t want his girls’ team to think only about defending the district title. The goal is to improve their region standing, and make sure Dingman has plenty of company at the state meet.
“We’re cautiously optimistic about defending our district title, but more importantly, we want a good showing at the Region II meet,” Knight said. “We have a lot of strong veterans, and we feel Victoria Reese, Christine Sears and Kelsie Utz are going to be great additions to a deep roster.”
Dingman — who has qualified for states in the 50 free already — already knows Lee will join her at the Christiansburg Aquatic Center. Knight said Lee has made tremendous strides to get to the level she’s at, and that showed up Saturday when she swam a 1:03.89 to qualify for states at the Sweet Inspirations Invitational at Shepherd University.
“She worked really hard over the summer and seems more determined than ever,” Knight said. “Her butterfly’s faster, and her free is faster as well.”
On the boys’ side, Knight will rely heavily on Restrepo (who should excel in the 100 and 200 free) and Williams (400 free, 100 back) to carry the Warriors, who still possess a lot of inexperience and youth. One of the newcomers is Joe Knight’s son, Joshua Knight.
“Most of the scoring is going to come from those two boys,” Knight said. “We just hope to get stronger as the season goes on.”
Coach: Will Sigler, 1st year.
Last year: Boys: Northwestern District regular season and meet champions, tied for 10th in Region II; Girls: 4th in district meet.
Key losses: Boys: Thomas Northrup, Michael Span, Nick Patton; Girls: Caitlin McClellan, Taylor Main.
Key returnees: Boys: Alex Morrow, So., Mark Graham, Jr., Hunter Doherty, Jr., Joe Patterson, Sr., Chris Patton, So., Daniel Hollingsworth, Jr., Thomas Mosher, Sr., Chris Wiens, Sr.; Girls: Katie Kozlowski, Sr., Kaitlyn Oates, Jr., Nitya Sharma, Sr., Taylor Cave, Jr., Abby McClellan, So.
Top newcomers: Boys: None mentioned; Girls: Taylor Linder, Fr., Madison Poteat, Fr.
Outlook: Millbrook’s boys will be hard-pressed to make up for the production of some of the swimmers they lost, but their new head coach said the attitude toward success hasn’t changed.
“They take a lot of pride in what they’ve accomplished in the last two years, and they’re determined to prove themselves in the area and get as many people to state as they can,” Sigler said.
Morrow — the district champion in the 400 free — headlines the group, and Sigler has been impressed with the work of captains Hollingsworth (strong in distance), Mosher (backstroke) and Wiens (breast).
On the girls’ side, Sigler said Kozlowski, who has been one of the state’s better breaststrokers throughout her career, is determined to finish her career strong, and this year, she’ll have other Millbrook girls’ swimmers to keep her company at the state meet.
Linder, a varsity volleyball player, qualified for state in the 100 butterfly at the Sweet Inspirations Invitational with a time of 1:03.32 to take first in that event at Shepherd University.
“She’s gives 100 percent at every practice, and she’s a very good athlete,” Sigler said. “She should have a strong season.”
Coach: Tag Grove, 11th year.
Last year: Boys: 2nd in Northwestern District meet; Girls: 3rd in district meet.
Key losses: Boys: None mentioned; Girls: Sparkle Kitchin, Elizabeth Harris.
Key returnees: Boys: Taylor Watts, Sr., Samuel Stearns, Sr., Alex Johnson, Sr., Alex Day, So., Ethan Franck, Jr., Troy Bergin, Jr.; Girls: Liz Grove, Jr., Aleksa Putnam, Jr., Allegra Zamore, So., Eileen Wilkerson, Jr., Haley Morefield, So.
Top newcomers: Boys: Carter Watts, Fr., William Yuan, Fr., Troy Bergin, Jr.; Girls: Hannah Bacon, Sr., Medha Gopal, Fr.
Outlook: Handley coach Tag Grove is pretty high on the prospects of this year’s Handley boys’ team, saying while they might not be capable of scoring like the teams that placed among the top eight in the state in 2008 and 2009, they might be deeper. Handley has already qualified its 200 free relay team for the state meet, with the Watts brothers, Stearns and Johnson lifting the team to a meter time of 1:47.00 at the City-County Relays.
“This is probably the best job we’ve seen through several years in the weight room, and I think that’s going to pay off,” said Grove, who has already had his swimmers go through two meets in one day and compete in Christiansburg one day after a Friday night dual meet with James Wood. “We’ve challenged them already this year more than any other group.”
Taylor Watts — who qualified for the state meet last year in the 50 free — leads this year’s Judges team, and Grove is expecting Watts’ younger brother Carter to make an impact as a freshman in part because he doesn’t look like a freshman.
“I don’t know if you’ve seen him, but he looks like he should suiting up for [Handley football coach] Tony [Rayburn],” said Grove of the swimmer who captured the 100 free in dual against James Wood. “He should do well for us.”
Led by his daughter Liz — who placed 15th in the 200 IM and 19th in the 100 backstroke at last year’s state meet — Tag believed the girls are capable of challenging for a district title as well. Grove and Putnam (100 free and 200 free) each won two events in the dual with James Wood.
“Those two should get to states, and hopefully they’ll be able to bring some relays with them,” Grove said. “[At Christiansburg] Saturday, some of the girls had tremendous drops in time. I asked Allegra Zamore, who was seeded with a 1:14, if she could swim a 1:11 in the 100 free, and she said she wasn’t sure. But when she saw one of her teammates do it she swam a 1:07, so we have people really improving.”
Coach: Kristy Hartbauer, 3rd year.
Last year: Boys: 4th in Northwestern District meet; Girls: 2nd in district meet, 7th in Region II.
Key losses: Boys: Chad Schott, Derek Hill, Justin Bowen; Girls: Alex Lew, Kaye Whitacre, Sara Fergus.
Key returnees: Boys: Conor Babington, So., Brian Lee, Jr., Andrew Wood, Jr., Connor Green, Sr.; Girls: McKenzie McNemar, Jr., Laura Moss, So., Catherine Legge, Sr., Molly Farinholt, Jr., Brooke Marcy, So.
Top newcomers: Boys: Brian Baker, Jr.; Girls: Erin Jackson, Fr.
Outlook: The James Wood boys have struggled in recent years, but the Colonels possess a pretty impressive 1-2 punch in Baker and Babington.
Baker was one of the area’s best swimmers as a Sherando freshman (he did not swim for the Warriors last year because practices conflicted with his Valley Swim Team Phoenix practices, but he transferred to James Wood this year and no longer has to deal with conflicting times) and Babington had already qualified for states in the 50 free, recording a meter time of 25.81 seconds last Friday in a dual with Handley.
“I’m still getting to know Brian, but he can swim any event,” Hartbauer said. “Conor really worked hard this summer and put in two practices a day. He’s only been swimming a couple of years, so he’s showing his potential and shown how much he’s grown in the past year.”
Hartbauer hopes Babington and Baker could lead some successful relays, much like James Wood’s top girls swimmers did last year.
The James Wood girls suffered some heavy losses from last year’s team, losing three individual state qualifiers in Lew, Whitacre and Fergus. But Hartbauer is excited about Jackson’s potential in the 100 back and the sprints, and she thinks James Wood might have a more well-rounded team than last year.
“It was nice to have the stars we had last year, but I’d rather have depth,” Hartbauer said. “And this is a close group that works hard and works well together.”
Coach: Carol Marshall, 11th year.
Last year: Boys: 4th in the Bull Run District meet, 2nd in Region B, Girls: 3rd in the district meet, tied for 3rd in Region B.
Key losses: Boys: Ben Marshall, Conor Mettenburg, Billy Ammons, Andrew Walraven; Girls: Courtney Rogers.
Key returnees: Boys: Andrew Walraven, So., Matthew Nesselrodt, So., Segar Sprouse, Sr., Evan McKay, Sr.; Girls: Emily Deem, So., Marylee Gowdy, Sr., Michaela Harrell, So., Anna Peterson, Sr., Nicole Simons, Jr.
Top newcomers: Boys: Blaise Guerin-Williams, Fr., Dane Duncan, Sr.; Girls: Giulia Invernizzi, Sr., Kelly Wallis, So., Rachel Sopko, Fr., Rachel Leeds, So., Abby Smetanick, So.
Outlook: It almost seems like a given that George Mason is going to have the best teams in the Bull Run District. Just two years ago, they were electing to move up to compete in the Dulles District for swimming. But Carol Marshall said the Eagle girls are ready to take aim.
“We’re swimming fast, and we’ve got the best practice work ethic I’ve seen in years,” Marshall said. “We’ve got experience and depth.”
Among Marshall’s returnees are Deem, who placed 15th in the 50 free and 26th in the 100 back at the Group AA/A state meet, Gowdy, who qualified for the state meet in the 100 butterfly and 500 free, and Peterson, who seems primed to have a big year in the breaststroke. As far as newcomers, Invernizzi has quickly gone to the head of the class, especially because she likes the 200 and 500 free.
“She’s been a big help, because we’ve usually struggled with distance swimming on the girls’ side,” Marshall said. “A lot of the girls are excited that she likes distance.”
The Clarke County boys must overcome the loss of two state qualifiers in Marshall and Mettenburg, and a young team will turn to swimmers likes Walraven, who has excelled in the 50 free so far this year, and Nesselrodt, who has picked up wins in the 200 IM, 100 back and 100 free in dual meets so far.
“We’re training hard and seeing some drops in time, and the freshman have some good role models to look up to,” Marshall said.
— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow on Twitter @WinStarSports1