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UPDATED: Briar Woods repeats as Potomac District swim champions

The Briar Woods Falcons swept top team honors at the Potomac District swim championships.—Times-Mirror/Jason S. Rufner
As the final relay of the long evening was in its last stage and the crowd around the pool at Claude Moore Recreation Center began to thin, the three dozen or so swimmers representing Briar Woods High School gathered together on one of the bleacher stands, newly donned dark t-shirts now covering their blue-and-orange swimsuits.

“Briar Woods District Champs 2016 - 2017 - 2018,” the front of the t-shirt declared, deep orange on black. On the back was emblazoned the term “Three-Peat.”

Before the final tallies were computed at the Potomac District swim championships Jan. 26 in Sterling, the Falcon swimmers confidently put on their new shirts. Moments later, when official results were released by the timing table and Briar Woods was announced as Potomac champions for both boys and girls, the joyful shouting from the Falcons reverberated throughout the water-soaked facility.

“This is a three-peat for both our boys and our girls for the [district] meet,” Briar Woods fifth-year head coach Eric Bateman explained. “For the regular season, it’s three in a row for the girls, four for the boys.”

Considering their boys’ and girls’ teams won their respective district competitions by a combined margin of 270 points, the Falcons’ advance wardrobe preparation was warranted.

Briar Woods’ girls raced out to a massive early lead as freshman Mackenzie McConagha and sophomore Abby Harter combined to claim three of the meet’s first four individual events, plus the meet-opening 200-yard medley relay with sophomore Katie Winklosky and junior Jordan Wenner.

Wenner took a close second in the 50-yard freestyle, 0.71 seconds behind Tuscarora senior Missy Cundiff and just a tenth of a second ahead of Potomac Falls sophomore Chale Jacks.

“It’s so great to win this three times in a row and have this great memory with my team,” said Briar Woods senior captain Cassie Holstein, who earned a state-meet appearance with her 5:16.97 in the 500-yard freestyle, a 15-second drop off her usual time.

Holstein, who will swim for Duquesne University next year, talked of the unbridled cheering the Falcons habitually do for each other.

“I’m sure you heard us screaming for each other the whole time,” she continued. “That’s just what we do, is support each other.”

The most competitive heat of the night was the girls’ 100-yard freestyle, in which Potomac Falls freshman Janika Perezous touched the wall just 0.18 seconds before Rock Ridge senior Gabby Zhang, who arrived 0.37 seconds ahead of Briar Woods senior Bethany Gatlin.

The evening’s closest race was a duel between Harter and Tuscarora sophomore Shelby Gerving in the 100-yard breaststroke, with Gerving edging Harter by a mere 0.08 seconds.

On the boys’ side, Briar Woods senior captain Thomas Moore noted a certain progression to his team’s district championships.

“The first year we won it, it was pretty close. Every year after that, it’s been more and more of a blowout,” said Moore, one of nine seniors among the Briar Woods boys who’ve helped the Falcons to a 34-0 dual-meet record over their careers.

“I think this is the fastest team we’ve had yet. I’m really proud of the work we’ve all put in,” he added.

Moore and his younger brother Jack, a sophomore, teamed up to propel the Falcons to wins in both relay events, with Jack chipping in comfortable victories in the 100-yard and 200-yard freestyle races.

Bateman noted other performances, such as Nathan Curran’s fifth in the 100-yard breaststroke to qualify the freshman for the upcoming Region 5 North meet.

Minutes after accepting their latest trophy, the Falcon swimmers and their coaches were still milling happily at poolside.

The Falcon boys finished second in last year’s Class 5 state meet, while the Falcon girls are two-time runners-up at the state level. Bateman said he believes this season’s edition of the Briar Woods swim team has more talent, both male and female, than ever before.

“Our goal is to win the region and then win states,” Bateman stated. “This is a very supportive team of each other. It’s almost like a family atmosphere. Just the team camaraderie across the board has been phenomenal.”

The events producing the most state-meet qualifiers were the boys’ 50-yard freestyle and the girls’ 100-yard butterfly, each of which ended with seven swimmers earning state cut times.

Briar Woods 442
Freedom 293
Broad Run 263
Potomac Falls 250.5
Rock Ridge 216
Stone Bridge 194
Tuscarora 153
John Champe 136.5

Briar Woods 434
Rock Ridge 313
Freedom 270
Potomac Falls 247
Stone Bridge 236
John Champe 222
Broad Run 158
Tuscarora 68

Girls event champions

-200 medley relay
Briar Woods (McConagha, Harter, Winklosky, Wenner) 1:45.23

-200 freestyle
Mackenzie McConagha (BW) 1:54.89

-200 individual medley
Abby Harter (BW) 2:03.14

-50 freestyle
Missy Cundiff (T) 23.19

-100 butterfly
Mackenzie McConagha (BW) 54.42

-100 freestyle
Janika Perezous (PF) 52.43

-500 freestyle
Sophie McKinley (F) 5:08.9

-200 freestyle relay
Potomac Falls (Mogensen, Jacks, Dye, Perezous) 1:39.38

-100 backstroke
Janika Perezous (PF) 55.56

-100 breaststroke
Shelby Gerving (T) 1:03.11

-400 freestyle relay
Briar Woods (McConagha, Gatlin, Wenner, Harter) 3:28.37

Boys event champions

-200 medley relay
Briar Woods (J. Moore, T. Moore, Reilly, Pliuskaitis) 1:36.82

-200 freestyle
Jack Moore (BW) 1:41.59

-200 individual medley
Steven Thalblum (SB) 1:52.10

-50 freestyle
Trace Wall (RR) 21.03

-100 butterfly
Steven Thalblum (SB) 49.24

-100 freestyle
Jack Moore (BW) 46.15

-500 freestyle
Sam Oliver (JC) 4:37.08

-200 freestyle relay
Rock Ridge (Collier, Zapp, Conway, Wall) 1:29.82

-100 backstroke
Luay Hilmi (PF) 52.01

-100 breaststroke
Cody Kim (SB) 58.0

-400 freestyle relay
Briar Woods (Reilly, Pliuskaitis, T. Moore, J. Moore) 3:13.77

-Photos by Doug Stroud


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