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by Judith Hruz
Sherwood High School girls swimming and diving Coach Brendan Lees knew the momentum was building to have a great year.
The signs were evident.
Sherwood has a history of great swimmers since the 1980s, he said, and the last four years have been indicative of what the team would be capable of accomplishing this season.
Lees was right.
The girls swimming and diving team won its first Women’s Swimming State Championship, defeating Walter Johnson, 310.5 to 237, at the Feb. 20-21 competition at the University of Maryland’s Eppley Recreation Center.
The team also won the Metro Championship, which not only includes Maryland public schools, but also all private schools from the D.C. metropolitan area.
“So it’s a huge team accomplishment that the girls won the first Metros title in school history,” Lees said. “They carried that momentum into the Maryland State Championships to finish off the year winning the school’s first swimming state championship.”
He heaped praise on the team members.
“We’ve had a great group of girls that have been working hard that resulted in our Metros and State champ titles this year,” Lees said.
The members of the team have been working hard for years at Sherwood, on club teams and in summer recreation, the coach said. Some freshman joined the team this year to add to the strength of the upperclassmen.
Lees applauded the senior leadership of the team’s three captains – Morgan Hill, Margarita Ryan and Colleen Kaufman – who “did a great job not only helping the freshman new to the team, but getting everyone on the team doing the best they could and having fun representing Sherwood High School.”
The team finished second at the State Championship last year and none of the scorers graduated from that team, Lees said. That, combined with the strong freshman, worked to create the championship squad.
A few of the performances stand out, he said.
Hill, who will be swimming next year at the University of Virginia, won the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle at both the Metro and State championships, breaking Montgomery County Public Schools and state meet records in the process.
The medley relay of Margarita Ryan, Erica Hjelle, Morgan Hill and Emma Eustace finished first at the State Championships with a new state meet record, and the 400 freestyle relay of Sophia Ryan, Margarita Ryan, Jaimy Wenhold and Morgan Hill also finished first at the State Championships with a new state meet record.
Among other strong Warrior performances were Grace Giddings, who took second in the 500-yard freestyle; Hjelle, who took second in the 100 backstroke, and Kaitlin Gravell, who took third in the 200 individual medley.
“The girls knew that if they worked hard this year and swam their best that good things could happen,” Lees said. “I could not have asked them to do any better than they did at both Metros and State Championships. They swam their hearts out and had fun doing it.”
One of the first things Lees stresses to his team members is that they should have fun.
“Then I stress to the girls that in order to achieve the goals we want, I expect them to be doing the best they can in every aspect of their swimming,” he said. “That not only involves in races, but in practice, also. Always working on their strokes, starts, turns, finishes. Working on those little things in practice will transfer to success in their races.”
Lees, who began as swimming and diving coach at Sherwood in 2008 and was named the 2014 Gazette Coach of the Year, swam competitively from the age of 6 to 20. He grew up in Fairport, New York, swimming for his club team, in high school, and then at the University of Delaware.
His high school team won four New York State Championships that he was part of, “which made it really special for me to see my girls team be a part of one this year,” he said. “Winning team championships like that is something you carry with you forever.”
The Sherwood team will lose its three captains to graduation this spring, but a lot of swimmers will return next year “that will keep us competitive,” Lees said.
“It should be a fun year competing with some other teams,” he added.
The boys swimming and diving team improved from last year and had a “big win” over Montgomery Blair to win the 4A/3A North Regional Championship, Lees said.
“This was a huge win for the boys and it will help them build some momentum to improve on for next year, which I’m excited about,” he added.
Judith Hruz can be reached at email@example.com.
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