The Cougar girls entered the state’s top five for the first time in program history; they placed seventh last winter and have steadily improved their result every year since 2015—they were outside the top 20 in 2013 and finished 13th in 2014-15. Quince Orchard’s boys have also remained consistent—the Cougar boys have been a mainstay in the state’s top 10 since Montgomery County began competing in the state competition eight years ago.
“We’ve been very pleased with how the team swam over the past three weeks,” seventh-year Quince Orchard coach Todd Garner said. “(Our consistency) is definitely something we’re proud of. It’s hard because there are a lot of ups and downs (in high school sports) but we’ve been able to stay (competitive). And that’s a credit to the kids’ hard work.”
Junior and Duke University recruit Catherine Belyakov was the state meet’s highest scoring female. She picked up 40 points behind two individual event wins—200-yard individual medley (IM) and 100 breaststroke—and led off the Cougars’ state record-setting 400 freestyle relay. Belyakov also set a new mark in the IM, lowering her state record from a year ago by .95 seconds to 2 minutes and 1.41 seconds—the time was .97 seconds faster than her runner-up performance at the Washington Metropolitan Interscholastic Swimming and Diving Championships on Feb. 9.
Belyakov’s twin sister Anastasia, who anchored the 400 freestyle relay, tallied 29 points of her own at the state meet with fourth-place finishes in both the 200 and 500 freestyle events. Senior Emily Mann, who swam the third leg of the 400 freestyle relay, earned 26 points with fourth- and eighth-place results in the 100 butterfly and 500 freestyle, respectively, and junior Andie Weitzman scored in the 200 IM and 100 breaststroke to contribute 14 points.
Sophomore Marisa Pozzi joined the Belyakovs and Mann in the 400 freestyle and the meet’s opening event, the 200 medley relay, in which Quince Orchard took second place.
Senior Jacob Lindner led the Cougar boys in scoring—and tied for ninth among the meet’s highest scorers—with 32 points. After leading off Quince Orchard’s fifth-place 200 medley relay that also included sophomore Gabriel Fouts and seniors Diego Morales and Matthew Steinwandel, Lindner swam a personal best 21.23 en route to second in the 50 freestyle and finished fourth in the 100 backstroke.
Though Garner said Lindner was “bummed” at the placing, he was pleased to drop another .18 seconds from his meet record en route to winning the regional title Feb. 16. He also set a 100 freestyle school record (47.43) in the opening leg of the state meet finale 400 freestyle relay, in which Quince Orchard placed fourth.
Freshman Cole Greenberg made a strong state meet debut, earning 25 points with top 10 finishes in the 100 and 200 freestyle events—he also anchored the seventh-place 200 freestyle relay. Morales picked up 19 points with top 10 performances in the 100 fly and 500 freestyle and Fouts, who was part of the 200 freestyle relay, also scored in the 100 breaststroke.
The Washington Metropolitan Area, and Montgomery County in particular, boasts some of the country’s best high school swimming talent and while Quince Orchard has been fortunate enough to have some elite-level talent come through its program over the years, Garner said versatility has played just as important a role in the team’s success.
“With all those kids (who might not win every event they swim), they’re special because they can swim almost any event, which can really help give us flexibility with our lineups so the kids don’t have to swim the same event every meet,” Garner said. “We like to do that to keep them fresh in their (best) events. … Anastasia really helped us out by moving around to different events (this postseason) and she was really successful.”