Reaching peak performance in swimming comes down to a rather precise science. Athletes taper—reduce their training volume—leading up to their biggest meets, giving their bodies, and minds, time to recover from months of stress. The season-ending Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association swimming championship, held Feb. 25 at the University of Maryland, College Park’s Eppley Recreation Center, fell at a strange time in Montgomery County’s top student-athletes’s training schedules, right between two major championships—the Washington Metropolitan Interscholastic Swimming and Diving Championships (Feb. 7-10) and the upcoming National Club Swimming Association Junior/Senior Nationals (March 13-17).
Despite their weary muscles, Quince Orchard swimmers got up for the state meet and closed out the season with some strong performances. The Cougar boys finished fifth while their female counterparts came in seventh. Some of those who didn’t feel they showed their best at Metros, also turned around for better results at states.
“It’s hard on the kids and as coaches we try to tell the kids what’s going on with their bodies,” Quince Orchard Coach Todd Garner said. “If they worked hard the week after Metros, they were probably feeling crummy, but that’s good. I just reminded them to execute their race plans (at states) and not worry about their times.”
But if there’s one thing swimmers are known for, it’s internal drive. In the past three or four seasons, the state meet has gotten to be quite competitive and Quince Orchard’s state contenders had no intention of backing down. Sports are unpredictable and when athletes let their guards down and don’t push themselves, there’s always someone ready to break through.
Senior Eli Fouts, who swam the third leg of Quince Orchard’s winning 200-yard medley relay, broke his own state record en route to the 100-yard breaststroke title. He finished second in the 100 butterfly. Joining Fouts in the medley relay were Evan Judge, Jacob Lindner and Diego Morales; the four teamed up again for third in the meet-finale 400 freestyle relay. Other individual scorers for the Quince Orchard boys included Morales, who finished top 10 in the 200 and 500 freestyles, Judge (seventh 50 freestyle), Lindner (top 15 in 100 butterfly/100 backstroke).
Sophomore Catherine Belyakov was a two-time individual event winner at states, setting a new meet mark in the 200 individual medley before picking up another title in the 100 breaststroke. Her sister Anastasia finished eighth in both events. The two, alongside Emily Mann and Jessica Nyborg, finished sixth in the 200 freestyle relay; the Belyakovs, Mann and Marissa Pozzi picked up third in the 400 freestyle relay. Mann finished fifth and sixth, respectively, in the 100 butterfly and 500 freestyle.
“It’s a lot easier for kids to identify (with other athletes) as state champions, it’s harder to try and explain being a Metros champion, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised in the rise in competitiveness at states,” Garner said. “I think that makes it more fun for the kids to be there, and they enjoy the awards ceremony element. States was exciting, we had a few state champions and (some swimmers) swam faster at states than they did at Metros.”