Virginia High School League – District Championships
- January 28-31, 2021
- Short Course Yards
The opening round of the Virginia High School swimming & diving post-season began last weekend with district championship meets.
This is the first rung of a 3-step process: schools have until February 9 to complete Region meets. The top 4 finishers in each individual event and relay event at each Regional meet will advance to one of the 5 State Championship meets, ranging from a Class 1 & 2 combined meet, for the states smallest schools, to Class 6, for the state’s largest schools.
Each Class has 4 regions, meaning 16 qualifiers per event at the State Championship meet.
The two fastest district meets from last weekend were the Concorde District and the Liberty District, with no team scores being publicized for any (and some being described this year as “invitationals” rather than “championships.”
The Concorde District features Oakton High School, who were last year’s Class 6 3rd-place finishing teams in both the boys’ and girls’ meet, and the defending Class 6 girls’ champions James Madison High.
Among the highlight swimmers for Oakton is Anthony Grimm, the #2-ranked recruit in the high school class of 2021 who is headed to the University of Texas next season.
Grimm topped both of his individual events, winning the 50 free in 20.39 and the 100 breaststroke in 54.87. Neither swim is a best time for the defending Class 6 Champion in both races.
He also split 24.39 on the breaststroke leg of a 200 medley relay, where Oakton was upended by a surprising veteran Centreville relay by two seconds; and anchored Oakton’s winning 200 free relay in 1:25.93.
Swimmers are usually not bound to the Regional or State meets by their district event choices – so it’s worth noting that last year at this meet, the supremely-versatile Grimm swam the 50 free and 100 back before switching to the 100 breaststroke for his state title hunt. This year, because of the change in the qualifying system to deal with the pandemic, swimmers are bound to retain their events from Districts through to state.
Grimm’s understudy, of sorts, at Oakton is junior Graham Evers, who won both the 200 free (1:42.94) and 100 free (47.35). For Evers, who has not announced a college decision yet, those are both lifetime best swims. He was the runner-up in both events at this meet in 2020 as a sophomore, but was 7-tenths better in the 100 free and 8-tenths better in the 200 free this season.
The top performer on the girls’ side of the meet was Alexandra Dicks from the defending state champs at James Madison. She won the 50 free in 22.87 and the 100 free in 50.32. Last year, she was the runner-up in the 50 free (behind US National Teamer Torri Huske, who we’ll discuss later in the Liberty District), and 3rd in the 100 free, at the Class 6 State Meet, and she’s already close to her best times in both swims at this District event.
She also led off James Madison’s winning 200 free relay and 400 free relay.
Dicks’ teammate Erica Rice, committed to swim at Division III school Case Western, won both the 100 back (56.69) and 200 IM (2:07.44), which are both huge best times for her.
Other Concorde District Highlights:
- The Centreville boys, a team with a lot of depth, went 1-2-3 in the boys’ 100 backstroke, led by a 51.48 from Thomas Soh. The runner-up in that race, Jett Lee, won the 100 fly in 50.65 to defend his title. That’s three-tenths faster than he was at this meet last season, and almost asz fast as he was at last year’s state meet.
- Chantilly High senior Justin Lee won the 200 IM in 1:56.36 and finished 2nd in the 100 breaststroke, behind Grimm, in 56.77. The former is a new lifetime best, and the latter is faster than anybody on the Boston University team swam last season.
In the Liberty District, it was Stanford commit and US National Team member Torri Huske who earned top honors. Huske swam the 100 fly and 200 IM in times of 51.34 and 1:58.80, respectively. Last season, Huske broke the National Public High School Record in the 100 fly at the Class 6 Championship meet.
Huske last season swam the 200 and 500 freestyles at the Liberty District Championships before changing her events on a march to two individual state titles. This year, though, swimmers qualify through by placement, not times, so that means she’ll hold these 100 fly and 200 IM events through to State. In that 200 IM, specifically, that means a marquee matchup with Grace Sheble, who won last year’s Class 6 State Championship in 1:57.00.
With Yorktown High finishing 2nd at last year’s Class 6 State Championships, they’ll have to choose wisely with their superstar swimmer.
Huske also split 49.39 on a 400 free relay rolling start (though Langley High actually beat Yorktown in that event), and anchored the winning 200 free relay (no split – touchpad error).
Other Liberty District Highlights:
- McLean High School freshman Catherine Hughes, who trains with Huske at the Arlington Aquatic Club, made a big splash in her high school post-season debut. Hughes won the 100 breaststroke in 1:04.26 and was 2nd to Huske in the 200 IM in 2:07.48. Neither was a personal best, but in a meet that was dominated by juniors and seniors, Hughes was a standout rookie performer.
- On the boys’ side, Yorktown freshman Nolan Dunkel mirrored Hughes’ introduction to the league, winning both the 100 fly in 49.89 and the 100 back in 50.56. That 100 fly swim was his first time under 50 seconds in the race. With only Junoir National Teamer Landon Gentry and the aforementioned Jett Lee returning from last year’s state final in the boys’ 100 fly, Dunkel has a clear lane to at least a top 3 finish at this year’s Class 6 meet.