Blair to move up to Division I
Blair Swim and Dive (7-0) came 12th place in the Washington Metropolitan Interscholastic Swimming and Diving Championships (Metros) last week with a combined score of 187.5. The boys' team took 11th place with 125.5 points and the girls' took 17th place with 62 points.
Co-Coach David Swaney said this year's Metros rounded out a highly successful season, in which the boys' team (7-0) remained undefeated and the girls' team (5-2) achieved a near-perfect record. Senior co-captain Winston Liu said the team performed exceptionally well during qualifiers, though finals were "a little rougher" due to low energy.
Junior Niklas Hammond started off the meet by taking ninth place in the 200 Free and shaving off a half-second from his seeded time. In the girls' event, sophomore Jennifer Arai carried her seeded time to place 14th.
Sophomores Jack Foster and Emily Lathrop continued Blair's streak in the 200 IM; Foster placed 12th with an impressive time of 1:58.66, while Lathrop dropped almost a full second from her seeded time to finish 17th. Foster and Hammond also had respective eighth and ninth place finishes in the 500 Free.
Senior co-captain Laura McGehee was particularly impressed with Foster's preliminary performance in the 500 Free, in which he had a final time of 4:47.02. Swaney said Hammond was "on fire" the whole meet, setting Blair records in the 200 and 500 Free, and then capping the 400 Free Relay with a quick split. He also praised senior co-captain Eric Ruggieri, who tied for sixth place in the 100 Breast despite having a fever earlier in the week.
Blair gave solid performances in the relays. The girls landed ninth place and a record-breaking time of 1:44.61 for the 200 Free Relay, and finished 12th in the 200 Medley Relay. The boys placed tenth in both events, though Swaney singled out senior co-captain Dennis Li, who, in spite of a sprained ankle, delivered a fast split in the 200 Free Relay. He also congratulated McGehee for having finaled in the 100 Breast and Liu for a major time drop during the 500 Free finals.
Though the Blair's boy divers did not qualify, senior captain Claire Hoffman placed fifteenth in the girls' dive competition with a score of 263.850. Swaney said Hoffman's performance exceeded his expectations, especially in such a "crowded field of outstanding [regional] divers."
Due to the team's strong regular-season performance, Blair will be moved up to Division I next year. Swaney had a mixed attitude toward the change. "It's fun to play in the big leagues, even if you lose more meets," he said. "Our boys will thrive at the level of competition, as well as a few of our girls. But for the rest of the team, we'll be up against some ridiculously fast swimmers, which can be either fun or humiliating."
McGehee was pleased to end the swim season on a high note. "This year we had the best record since I can remember," she said. "More girls made it to Metros than ever before and we have lots of young talent, which bodes well for future seasons."
Liu added that the marked improvement in the girls' team solidified Blair's position as a top competitor in Division II. "I think the difference was that the girls stepped it up this year," he said. "We lost a lot of strong seniors last year. That could have put us at a disadvantage, but the whole team held up the burden this season."
Though Swaney is looking forward to next season, he said it would be hard to lose this year's seniors. "After four years [the seniors have] become the heart and soul of the team. It's always sad to see them go," he said. McGehee thought Metros carried a sense of finality, especially for the seniors and captains. "It's bittersweet," she said. "I love the atmosphere of our team, but after a certain time, you have to move on. [This meet] was a good farewell."
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