As Andrew Seliskar and Janet Hu tore up the Northern Virginia Regional Championships, not too far away at the Washington Prep School Swim & Dive League (WPSSDL), their elite cohorts Katie Ledecky and Jack Conger took on a league championship meet. This will be there final tuneup not before a “State Meet,” but rather before the Washington Metropolitan Championships.
Ledecky, the Olympic Champion (who interestingly isn’t drumming up nearly as much feat as her London teammate Missy Franklin for continuing to swim in high school), and Conger, the Trials finalist, were the two stars of this meet, though there are lots of big names in this Metro area.
Both kicked off their meets with wins in the 200 medley relay. Conger’s Good Counsel High School relay that included Brady Welch on the backstroke leg and Leo Mercer on breaststroke, won in a new Meet Record of 1:35.46. Conger split a 21.27 on the butterfly leg, which was actually faster than any freestyle anchor in the event swam. They got a good push from Georgetown Prep, who was 2nd in 1:36.79, but ultimately Conger’s butterfly split was too much to overcome.
Shortly thereafter, Ledecky’s Stone Ridge High School won the girls’ race in 1:50.66. Ledecky as a sophomore does have more speed than your average high school sophomore would, and anchored in 23.39, but she isn’t quite as explosive as Conger to get them anywhere near that Meet Record.
On the men’s side, the meet fell into a three-way battle between the powerhouses at Good Counsel, Gonzaga Prep (an extremely deep team that’s going to be good for many years), and Georgetown College High School.
That was embodied in the first individual event, the 200 free, where those three schools combined to take the top 5 spots. The win went to Carsten Vissering from Georgetown, who is just a sophomore, in 1:42.84. The young swimmer was tough enough to push the race early, turning halfway in 49.4, and still hold off Good Counsel’s Brady Welch (1:42.90) by less than a tenth at the touch.
Welch would get his redemption in the 100 backstroke, where he took a no-doubter in 52.34; that won by exactly a second over Gonzaga freshman Ryan Baker in 53.34.
Gonzaga got in on the record-breaking action with a new meet-best in the 200 IM from senior Paul O’Hara in 1:53.41 as he blew away the field with a big backstroke leg. The Harvard-bound swimmer showed just how much potential he has as an IM’er when he also won the 100 breaststroke later in the meet in 58.58 (just nipping Conger’s teammate Leo Mercer in 58.63).
(Note: the splits for O’hara’s IM don’t appear to be accurate in the results.)
Conger got his first individual win in the men’s 50 free, swimming a 19.94 Meet Record. We’ll have to wait and see if he gets the chance at Metro’s to go after his League Record of 19.85 that he set last year.
He came back right after the diving break (won by SID’s Bennett Magliato with a score of 415.30) and swam a 46.70 in the 100 fly; that was a league record, easily, bettering his time from this same meet last year by 7-tenths of a second. That time was also just .2 away from Joe Schooling’s National High School Record set in December at the Florida State Championship meet (and one of only three swimmers now to have been under 47 seconds in a high school meet, along with Maclin Davis).
Grant Goddard, just a sophomore from Georgetown Prep, won the men’s 100 free in 46.44, followed by a victory fellow sophomore Brennan Novak from Gonzaga in the 500 in 4:42.38. That 500 was a race that was a bit out of character for this type of meet, especially in distance races, as there were only two seniors in the top 16 – as compared to 10 freshmen or sophomores.
Gonzaga loaded up all of their veterans, to the tune of three seniors, on the 200 free relay and won that race in 1:26.94, including a 20.84 leadoff from O’Hara. He was joined by teammates William Lichtenfels, William Bloom, and Andrew Valentine. Bishop O’Connell was 2nd in 1:28.07.
In the last boys’ race of the night, Conger was back in the 400 free relay where he anchored in 43.65. Again, this race was very competitive through three legs – GC, Gonzaga, and Georgetown all left the blocks within .12 seconds of each other. And though the latter two each got very good 46-second anchors, Conger still made it a runaway victory in 3:09.46.
Men’s team standings:
1. Gonzaga – 500 (third straight title)
2. Georgetown Prep – 319
3. Good Counsel – 282
Back to the women’s meet, though Katie Ledecky didn’t swim the 500 free that would be her best in the high school event lineup, she did start out the meet with a victory in the close-ish 200 free. There she broke a League Record with a 1:45.07 that had belonged to World Record holder Kate Ziegler in 1:45.49 from 2006.
Pope Paul VI’s Emma Merrill won the 200 IM in 2:09.11 with four solid legs, and Holton-Arms sophomore Caroline McTaggart took the 50 free in 23.99 to lead into the diving break. The diving crown went to Good Counsel’s Cheyanne Neuenschwander in 310.90, just beating out the von Friederburg sisters from Georgetown Day School.
But remember that name McTaggart, because coming out of diving she went toe-to-toe with Ledecky in a battle of two standout sophomores in the 100 fly. This isn’t a race that Ledecky swims usually, but anybody who trains hard enough to win an Olympic gold medal can pull off some semblance of a decent 100 fly, and Ledecky did at least that with a 54.38, taking down a 15-year old league record (Molly Freedman, 1997). That’s a personal best for her by about four seconds. McTaggart didn’t have quite the back-half of Ledecky, but she was 2nd in 55.31 – which would have been a Meet Record as well.
McTaggart’s easily got a 54 in her, so watch for her to win at Metros if Ledecky doesn’t swim this event again (or maybe even if she does).
Good Counsel’s Catherine Mulquin won the 100 free in 52.04 ahead of a very young group of sprinters. Sidwell’s Liz Abeles ran away from the field early in the 500 free to win in 5:14.00.
That led into a 200 free relay that saw the top three finishers all break the League Record. All three teams were well ahead of pace going into the final leg, and even though Stone Ridge had saved Ledecky for their anchor, so did Good Counsel and Holton Arms. Always the big-race swimmer, though, Ledecky was way faster than she had been in the 200 medley and anchored her team home in 22.83 for the win. Mulquin’s 23.36 held on to 2nd for Good Counsel, and McTaggart was 23.11 on the anchor for Holton Arms.
Mulquin and Orme had a good battle in the 100 back, and though the times weren’t overly fast at the touch, the racing hyped up the pool Mulquin won in 57.21 to Ormes’ 58.03.
Georgetown Day Schools’ Schuyler Bailar won the 100 breaststroke in 1:05.64. Finishing the meet, Holton Arms won the 400 free relay in yet another Meet Record of 3:32.69. Good Counsel, the other top freestyle school, was 2nd (also under the old mark) in 3:33.52. Mulquin had her best swim of the night with a 51.14 on their anchor. Stone Ridge finished 6th without Ledecky in 3:51.56, though even her probably wouldn’t have taken them any better than 3rd.
Everyone will now scramble to finish off their tapers in time for the Metro Championships that will be held next weekend already.