James Wood girls swim to victories


WINCHESTER — In the middle of the 200-meter freestyle relay, Milbrook coach Will Sigler offered some sage advice to his swimmers who were still standing on deck.

“No false starts!”

Sigler yelled that jokingly because while Millbrook had two teams entered in the relay, James Wood did not have anyone.


Both Pioneer teams finished their swims without incident, and those 12 points proved to be critical as Millbrook won its first dual meet since the 2014-15 season with a 74-70 win Wednesday over James Wood at Jim Barnett Park’s War Memorial Building pool.

The girls’ competition was not nearly as close, as James Wood nearly doubled up the Pioneers with a 111-59 victory.

With several swimmers unable to attend for various reasons, James Wood (3-1 overall, 1-1 Northwestern) only used six boys for Wednesday’s competition. Swimmers are limited to four events, so Colonels coach Elizabeth Mumaw elected not to enter a 200 free relay team.

The Pioneers (1-3, 1-1) know the situation James Wood experienced Wednesday all two well. In 2015-16, Millbrook carried six boys on its roster for the entire season, a big factor in its winless season.

This year, Millbrook has 11 boys out for the team, and the Pioneers have been a lot more competitive — and enthusiastic — as a result. “They’ve all been willing to work hard and swim fast,” Sigler said. “And the new boys on the team have brought a new spirit.”

The winning 200 free relay team was made up entirely of newcomers — freshmen Brennan Dooley, Michael Olejarz and Tyler Abercrombie, and junior Darin Douglas. Their time of 2:22.82 beat Millbrook’s other relay team by just 0.41.

A competitive race like that is a nice problem to have for Millbrook, which literally could not field more than one team in a relay race at any time last year.

“Numbers do help,” said Sigler, whose team received eight points for first and four for second in the 200 free relay. “Obviously, we wouldn’t have won this meet without those two teams in that relay.”

The Millbrook boys also received individual wins from junior Patrick Northrup in the 200 individual medley (2:41.80) and junior Zach Hicks in the 50 freestyle (29.67).

James Wood won the other eight boys’ events, with sophomores David Dorsey and Brian Hua each winning two individual events. Dorsey captured the 200 free in 2:29.59 and the 400 free in 5:20.30, and Hua won the 100 breaststroke in 1:19.73 and the 100 butterfly in 1:04.86.

Hua didn’t have his best butterfly time of the season (his converted yard time from Dec. 20 at the Signal Knob Recreation Center is 1:04.24), but he remains in striking distance of an automatic state time. He needs to get to 1:03.09 in meters or 56.59 in yards.

“I think I’m really improving,” said Hua, who dropped from 59 seconds to 57 seconds in yards through his work with Valley Swim Team Phoenix in the offseason. “I worked hard on my speed and my endurance.”

Mumaw said Hua’s work has definitely paid off. She said James Wood’s coaches weren’t necessarily expecting him to break one minute in yards so early in the season last week at Strasburg.

“I looked at my watch, and I just thought, ‘Oh my goodness,’” she said. “He really has his eyes on the postseason at this point, and on what he can do there.”

The James Wood boys also received wins from senior Ping Lin (100 free in 1:16.77), sophomore Keeyan McDonald (100 backstroke in 1:25.17) and the 200 medley relay (2:19.67) and 400 free relay (4:42.02) teams, which each consisted of Dorsey, Hua, McDonald and senior Sam McCarthy.

The James Wood girls (3-1, 1-1) received individual wins from senior Hannah Cavanagh (200 free, 2:34.71), Lydia Sunderlin (50 free, 32.67), senior Zoe Schopick (100 fly, 1:16.33) and senior Abby Fergus (100 breaststroke, 1:34.33).

That foursome also teamed up to win the 200 medley relay (2:27.19), and Schopick and Sunderlin teamed with sophomore Taylin Crosen and senior Katie Sunderlin to take the 200 free relay (2:13.17).


“We had some good swims tonight,” said Mumaw, who was particularly pleased with Abbey Esparza (36.21 in the 50 free), who is typically a distance swimmer. “We’re looking toward Clarke County [in a meet on Jan. 6 in Winchester]. I feel like that meet last year was a springboard into the final weeks of the season. Hopefully that can be the same again this year, because we know they’ll definitely bring some tough competition.”

Schopick — who placed 11th at the Group 4A state meet in the 100 butterfly last year — had a solid performance on Wednesday, winning the 100 fly by eight seconds and taking second in the 200 IM in 2:50.62.

On the first weekend of December in Warrenton while swimming with Phoenix, Schopick said she swam a 1:02 in yards in the fly, a four-second improvement from what she was swimming in early December last year.

“That motivated me,” Schopick said. “It is hard to tell exactly how I’m doing since we didn’t go to [the Sweet Inspirations meet at Shepherd University] like we did last year, but I think I’m swimming faster than I was at this point last year.”

Numerous local swimmers achieved state-qualifying times last year at the Sweet Inspirations meet. That meet — which features strong competition and a yard pool — had been held for several years, but Sigler said for reasons he does not know it was not held this year.

As a result, swimmers like Schopick and Abbey Esslinger are still looking for state-qualifying times.

Esslinger — who took ninth in the 200 IM and 12th in the 100 fly at last year’s state meet — took first in the 200 IM in 2:41.66 and first in the 100 free in 1:05.94 on Wednesday for the Pioneers (1-3, 0-2). The meet marked Esslinger’s first attempt at the individual 100 free this year.

“Usually in practice I’m around 1:10 in the 100 free,” Esslinger said. “I’m pretty sure that’s the fastest I’ve gone in this pool. I swam well last year doing the 100 free, so I wanted to try it again.”

In addition to the 200 IM, Esslinger said she’s considering the breaststroke for the postseason. Esslinger went from a 1:14 to a 1:09 at a meet earlier this month with Winchester Swim Team at a meet in Christiansburg.

Esslinger teamed with junior Amanda Olejarz, junior Erin Dooley and senior Lindsay Fairbanks to win the 400 free relay in 4:59.43. Fairbanks also won two individual events, taking the 100 backstroke in 1:17.86 and the 400 free in 5:13.15 (Fairbanks was 14th in the state in the 500-yard free last year).

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Follow on Twitter @WinStarSports1


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