Second-place boys' finish can't keep Blazers afloat in Division I
FEB. 12, MONTGOMERY AQUATIC CENTER--
For the last few seasons, the Blair swim team has teetered on the edge between Division I and Division II, its place in the former secured mostly by the strength of its boys' team. After narrowly escaping demotion to Division II at the end of last season after the boys finished fifth and the girls placed sixth at Divisionals (Watkins Mill, with its sixth-place boys and fifth-place girls, went down instead), the Blazers had hoped to avoid demotion once again this year because of an especially strong boys lineup.
They almost made it.
Although Walter Johnson's boys took home the Division-I championship for the sixth straight year, the Blazer boys came in second with an impressive 390 points, surpassing several teams that had defeated Blair in regular-season dual meets. In stark contrast to the boys' success, the girls team came in last out of the six teams present with 145 points; Richard Montgomery, the girls' champion, scored 456. The sum of the two scores gave the Blazers 535 team points –- nearly 100 points less than fifth-ranked Bethesda-Chevy Chase (BCC) –- and ended Blair's hopes of remaining in Division I next season.
Both the boys' and girls' teams got off to a slow start in the 200 Medley Relay, finishing fifth and sixth respectively in that event to earn the Blazers a combined 54 points. The boys shrugged off the early loss and went on to perform admirably in nearly every event, and though Blair would not go on to win any races, a slew of top-six finishes would sent Blair's score skyrocketing as the meet progressed.
As has been the case all season, the boys team scored biggest in the freestyle events. Junior co-captain Tyler Wilchek led Blair to its only second-place finish in an individual event with a 49:15 time in the 100 Free, while senior co-captains Ari Halper-Stromberg and Patrick Detzner took third-place finishes in the 200 Free and 50 Free, respectively. Sophomore David Vuong cruised to both a third-place finish and a Blair record in the 500 Free with a time of 4:57:57, further adding the boys' success.
More impressively, although 18 swimmers competed in each of the four freestyle events, all but four of Blair's freestylers achieved top-six finishes. In addition, Blair's 200 Free and 400 Free relay teams placed second and third respectively, adding 68 points to the 150 earned by individual freestylers for a total of 218 -- more than half of the boys' final score.
Blair's freestylers weren't the only ones who swam a strong meet, however; although their rankings were not as consistently high, the boys also placed well in every other stroke. Halper-Stromberg (100 Fly), Vuong (100 Back) and freshman Yang Yang (200 Individual Medley) all placed fourth in their respective events. Yang earned another fourth-place finish in the 100 Breast, breaking a Blair record with his 1:01:56 time, and junior Sam Silsbee also set a Blair record with a sixth-place, 151.45-point finish in the diving competition earlier in the day.
While the boys were able to shake off a poor start and cruise to victory in subsequent events, the girls were not so lucky. Having won only one meet in the last four seasons, Blair's girls found it difficult to stand up to some of the county's top teams, including pool-powerhouse Richard Montgomery. The Blazers placed last in all three relays and made few top-ten finishes. Co-captains junior Kelsey Dean and senior Kendra Williams gave the Blazers their best individual scores of the day, coming in seventh and eighth respectively in the 500 Free and 100 Fly. Dean also set a Blair record in the 200 Free with a time of 2:05:90, although even that record-breaking time only earned her tenth place in that event.
Small victories such as these, however, were tempered by the Blazer girls' last- and near-last finishes in several other events, and though the Blazers swam their hearts out, the fierce Division-I competition proved difficult to overcome. Although the girls earned 78 points from their three relays, they could only capture 67 points from individual events, and Blair's final score was less than half of fifth-place Whitman's 322 points. Even the boys' second-place score could not compensate for this 150-point gap, and when team scores were tabulated, the Blazers had the only sub-600 score of the six teams present.
As a result of this overall loss, the Blazers will be dropping down to Division II for the 2005-2006 season, replaced by the top team from this year's Division II. And though he is understandably disappointed by Blair's demotion, coach David Swaney adds that the change in divisions may not be a complete disappointment, explaining that it will allow the boys team to truly dominate its division while the girls will be able to swim against opponents that are more closely matched in speed and ability.
The Blazers will be sending its best relay teams and top two swimmers in each individual event to the Montgomery County Championships on Saturday, Feb. 19. The meet will begin at 8:00 a.m. and will be held at the Martin Luther King Swim Center.
Kristina Yang. Kristina Yang is 1/10 of the Blair girls' volleyball team. When not on the court, she most likely to be running away from Magnet math homework, trying to pay off her three speeding/redlight tickets, or feeding her bubble tea addiction. She would also like to ... More »