RICHMOND – Last year, Monacan’s girls edged King George by just 19 points for their first Region 4B swimming championship.
This year, the Chiefs showed the Foxes and everyone who was boss.
Monacan was nearly 200 points ahead of King George, the nearest competitor, with 500 points to the Foxes’ 301. The two teams were followed by Hanover (257) and Midlothian (248). Courtland rounded out the top five with 214.5 points.
It was the second-straight region title for the Chief girls in just Monacan’s second year of VHSL competition. Chiefs head coach Mark Van Deren said the key to their success is a combination of skill and depth.
“We have some very good swimmers and we’re very, very deep,” Van Deren said. “We have some superstars, but we also have some girls that are just really solid swimmers growing in the sport.”
Six Monacan swimmers won six individual events: Jessie Wallin in the 200-yard freestyle, Shannah Dillman in the 200 individual medley, Kayla Hobson in the 100 butterfly, Allison Pickels in the 100 freestyle, Paige Strycker in the 500 freestyle and Kelsey Peel in the 100 backstroke. Peel and Pickels combined for two more wins as part of the 200 medley relay team (with Dillman) and 200 freestyle relay team (with Wallin).
Tamara Wheater got the only win for King George in the 50 freestyle. The other two victories went to Midlothian’s Caroline Gray (100 breaststroke) and Hanover’s 400 freestyle relay team of Natalie Culley, Caroline Blaser, Claire Grant and Delaney Childs.
The boys meet was much closer, and the victory went to another Chesterfield team, Midlothian, with Monacan close behind. The Trojans scored 424 points to the Chiefs’ 390. Hanover and Patrick Henry were third, and fourth with 331 and 228 points, respectively. King George rounded out the top five with 185.
Neither of the top two boys teams had numerical dominance. While Midlothian’s top performers did as hoped, it was the contributions of the Trojans’ other swimmers that gave them the edge over Monacan.
“It’s every points counts, and everybody swam their hardest tonight,” said Midlothian head swimming coach Gene Bryson. “We had people dropping three and four seconds off the times they had coming in, so it was just a great job by the entire team. Of course, we have our No. 1 guys, but we had a great effort by everybody.”
Samuel McKey was the main winner for the Trojans, with victories in the 50 and 100 freestyles and as part of Midlothian’s first-place 200 freestyle relay team (with Matt Duren, Caleb Smietana and Alexi Gentz). Smietana also won the 100 breaststroke.
The performances of the Chiefs’ supporting cast had to be huge, for Monacan had more winners – including in the remaining two relays.
Ryan Polino and Abel Buell had two individual wins apiece, Polino in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke and Buell in the 200 individual medley and 500 freestyle.
Polino contributed two other wins and Buell to one other. Polino was part of the Chiefs’ champion 200 medley relay team (with Marc Macomson, Tim Higgins and Xavier Raymondson). Both Polino and Buell were part of the winning 400 freestyle relay team (with Macomson and Landon Ellis).
Hanover’s Luke Daley was the only non-Midlothian or Monacan boys winner, claiming the title in the 200 freestyle.
While the Hawks did not come away with another region title, Hanover head coach George Massey was happy with the result.
“We had many best times across the board. I can’t complain about how we swam tonight,” Massey said. “Kids were dropping up to 18 seconds on times, 500 freestyles in particular. But even the 200s. We had a girl drop 10 seconds on the 200 IM. I couldn’t predict any of this. They came in, it’s their last swim, and they just go for it.”
Ethan Spencer led Patrick Henry’s continent, amassing 32 points with third-place finishes in the 200 individual medley, the 100 breaststroke, and as part of the 200 medley relay (with Paul Datovech, Aidan Fraser, and Mark Dinger) and a fourth-place finish in the 200 freestyle relay (with Datovech, Dinger and Ronny Maier).
But the Patriots as a whole did well, dropping two minutes off their collective times.
“We walked in today with one person knowing they were going to states and walked out with six in more than six events,” said Patrick Henry head coach Bob Flanagan. “It was great.”
The Virginia High School League Class 4 state championships will be held at the Collegiate School Aquatic Center Friday.
Dave Lawrence can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.