Girls' Swimming Preview

The Sherando and Clarke County girls’ swimming teams are coming off standout 2017-18 seasons, and both squads figure to be in the hunt for more success in 2018-19.

There’s a significant amount of talent returning to the area as a whole. Of the 10 Winchester Star all-area selections from 2017-18, nine return.

The Warriors took second in the Class 4 Northwestern District and lost only one meet all year, to Class 4 Northwestern District champion Kettle Run. Sherando is off to a strong start this season, defeating Clarke County (third at the Class 2 state meet) 96-73 in its season opener and Fauquier (79-15) and Brentsville (60-34) in its second meet.

Leading the way for Sherando is a trio of swimmers who each swam on two relay teams (the 200 medley and 400 freestyle relay) that set school records last year while taking 13th and 14th, respectively, at the Class 4 state meet. The Warriors’ 200 medley relay team (2 minutes, 9.04 seconds in meters) and the 400 freestyle relay team (4:17.34) each boasted the area’s top times.

Sophomore Emma De Jong placed 11th in the 100 breaststroke last year and 22nd in the 100 free at the Class 4 state meet. Junior Jordyn Jones was 18th in the 100 backstroke last year at the state meet. Junior Kyra Schultz also swam on both of those relays.

While the Warriors have a strong returning nucleus (sophomore Lindley Armel and junior Gracie Twigg were part of last year’s record-setting relay contingent) and have added some talented newcomers (freshman Natalee Tusing helped the 200 medley relay team win against Clarke), Sherando coach Joe Knight said it will be difficult unseating Kettle Run atop the district. For starters, the Cougars bring back three swimmers who combined to win five of the eight individual district meet events last year.

“As far as our team is concerned, I think we’ve made some progress,” Knight said. “Recruiting, we’re happy with the freshmen that came in. We’re relatively still a young team with some really good sophomores. We’ll just have to see how the season plays out. We have a lot of swimmers who are really talented who can swim all the strokes. There’s a lot of competition between those girls for spots on relays and individual events, which is good.”

After losing to Sherando in its season opener, the Eagles have bounced back with two wins over Strasburg, one over Central and one over East Rockingham to improve to 4-1.

Clarke County is led by sophomore Sophia Deem, the first girl in the history of area five high schools to win a state title. Deem captured the 50 free and took fourth in the 100 free at last year’s state meet. Among the other returning Eagles’ standouts are Cynthia Fairbanks (fourth in the state in the 50 free), Maeve Lyman (eighth in the 100 free and 11th in the 100 breast at the state meet) and Stephanie Miller (eighth in the 100 fly and 12th in the 100 back at the state meet). Deem has already qualified for states in the 50 free, 100 free and 100 back and Fairbanks has qualified in the 50 free.

Those swimmers are part of an exceptional relay pool that produced three top-four finishes at last year’s state meet. Each of three relays have already qualified for this year’s Class 2 state meet. Eleven of those 12 relay spots were filled by underclassmen last year. Freshman Kayla Sprincis — the younger sister of Clarke boys’ standout Derek — competed on the 400 free relay team against Sherando after setting a school record in the 500 free earlier in the meet (a state time of 5:35.39). Sprincis has also qualified for states in the 200 free and 100 butterfly.

Clarke County will look to unseat defending Bull Run District champion George Mason, which took second in the state last year.

As for the rest of the Class 4 Northwestern District, James Wood is led by sophomore Kimberly Warnagiris, The Winchester Star Girls’ Swimmer of the Year as a freshman after placing fourth in the 100 butterfly and fifth in the 100 breaststroke at the state meet. The Colonels have added some talented freshmen and have a larger team overall (21 girls), and they look to improve on last year’s fifth-place finish in the district.

Handley (third in the district last year) will be paced this year by Kenzi Fergus, who placed ninth in the 100 backstroke and 17th in the 500 free at last year’s Class 4 state meet.

Millbrook (sixth in the district) is coming off a season in which it did not have anyone qualify for the Region 4C meet. The Pioneers have added a new head coach in Priscilla Elliott — who spent the last four years coaching at Spring Mills (W.Va.) — and they also added freshman Lyddie Esslinger, the younger sister of former two-time Winchester Star Swimmer of the Year Abby Esslinger (2016 and 2017 winner).

Handley, James Wood, Millbrook and Sherando will next compete in a quad at Jim Barnett Park’s War Memorial Building at 9 a.m. on Saturday. Clarke County also returns to action on Saturday in a tri-meet involving Bull Run District rivals George Mason and Strasburg. The competition will start at 1 p.m. at the Manassas Park Community Center.

The following is a glance at each area team:


Coach: Joe Knight, 14th season.

Last year: Second in Class 4 Northwestern District meet; 6th in Region 4C; 21st in Class 4 state.

Key losses: Bre Keefer, Madie McVey, Ellie Toomey.

Key returnees: Eve Campbell (captain), Sr.; Olivia Coulliard, Sr.; Andrea Houchins, Sr.; Caitlyn Mayo, Sr.; Anne Restrepo (captain), Sr.; Hannah Starustka, Sr.; Jordyn Jones, Jr. (2nd in area in 100-meter back, 1:10.04, and 400 free, 4:58.50; 3rd in area in 200 free, 2:22.58); Eleanor Lunde, Jr.; Kyra Schultz, Jr. (200 IM, 2:36.85, 3rd in area); Gracie Twigg, Jr.; Lindley Armel, So.; Emma De Jong, So. (2nd in area in 200 free, 2:19.05, 100 breast, 1:16.98, and 200 IM, 2:36.48; 3rd in 100 free (district champ), 1:02.22, and 100 back, 1:17.77); Addy Gannon, So.; Hannah Motley, So.

Key newcomers: Havana Landers, So; Chloe Stogsdill, Fr; Natalee Tusing, Fr.; Maggie Ubert, Fr.; Stella Wallin, Fr.; Anika Williams, So.

Knight’s outlook: “Emma [De Jong] looks stronger this year. She’s been doing a lot of swimming with her USA club and participating in a lot of USA meets. She’s close to several school records that are ironically enough held by her older sister Megan. We’re going to try and use that to our advantage and see if we can’t motivate her to set some school records in the process. That in turn will help her qualify for a few additional events for the state championship, and that will give us a little bit of flexibility as well in terms of where we place her. Jordyn Jones looks exceptionally strong. For this early in the season she’s right back to where she was towards the end of the season last year. I’m interpreting that to be a good sign. I only look for her to get better as the season progresses. Kyra Schultz looks really strong. Last year, she was coming off a rather unfortunate elbow injury, which limited the amount of preseason conditioning and swimming she can actually do. This year that’s behind her. She looks stronger and definitely a lot healthier than she was last year.”


Coach: Tag Grove, 17th season.

Last year: Fourth in Class 4 Northwestern District meet; 12th in Region 4C; 25th in Class 4 state.

Key losses: Meredith Watts, Quincy Morefield, Jenna Logan, Cat Love, Kristin Blake, Jade Rickman.

Key returnees: Kenzi Fergus, Sr. (1st in area in the 400-meter free last year, 4:42.62 and 100 back, 1:15.72); Molly Young, So.; Kayleigh Moss, Sr.; Catherine Keim, Sr.

Key newcomers: Natalie Barnett, Fr.

Grove’s outlook: “We’ll focus on the freestyle events and the backstroke with Kenzi. [She suffered an injury in track], but she’s not really missing a beat. I think we’ll eventually see her times back to where they were at the end of the season last year. I’m looking for Kayleigh Moss and Catherine Keim to step up a little bit this year and take on a little more responsibility as seniors, and also swim a little better than they have in the past. They’ve been looking pretty good this year and working hard, so I’ll expect that will happen. We won’t win a whole lot of dual meets because of our size [11 girls], but I think when you get into the end of the season and you get into the championship meets, the size of your team doesn’t matter. You just put the kids into their events and you hope that they qualify for regionals. I feel confident Kenzi is going to make states, and hopefully we can get some other people with her there as well.”

James Wood

Coach: Alan Cavanagh, 2nd season.

Last year: Fifth in Class 4 Northwestern District meet; 11th in Region 4C; 19th in Class 4 state.

Key losses: Sophia Walker, Olivia Pettler, Abbey Esparza.


Key returnees: Kimberly Warnagiris, So. (1st in area in 100-meter free last year, 1:01.08, 200 free, 2:13.08, 100 breast, 1:15.72, 100 fly (district champ), 1:02.88 and 200 IM, 2:24.48; 3rd in the area in 50 free, 28.65, and 400 free, 5:01.36); Rachel Cavanagh Sr.; Keilena Burch Sr.

Key newcomers: Paige Simko Fr.; Leah Snapp Fr.

Cavanagh’s outlook: “I can see Kimberly placing in the top three in states this year. We’ve got a few more swimmers from the year-round teams. Paige Simko is a phenomenal breaststroker. Leah Snapp is a strong swimmer overall and is very strong backstroker. They’re in the same vein as Kimberly was last year. I believe we’ll be able to go to states with a relay team.”


Coach: Priscilla Elliott, 1st season.

Last year: Sixth in Class 4 Northwestern District meet.

Key losses: Eliza Grigsby, Amanda Olejarz, Erin Dooley.

Key returnees: Kristen Smith (captain), Sr.; Blair Compton (captain), Sr.; Avery Ours, So.

Key newcomers: Lyddie Esslinger, Fr.; Olivia Webster, Fr.; Avery Sigler, Fr.

Elliott’s outlook: “I think we have a lot of potential. We have a couple freshmen coming in who have been [doing USA Swimming] who are in a good position to be competitive and score points and make regional times, definitely. We have a couple returning athletes who are dedicated to the sport and are swimming year-round. I think we’re in a really good position to be competitive. Lyddie is definitely one of our top females. I know she has big shoes to fill, but she’s definitely a standout swimmer right from the start. Olivia Webster has been really impressive so far in the preseason, and Avery Sigler also has a lot of potential.”

Clarke County

Coach: Carol Marshall, 17th season.

Last year: Second in Bull Run District meet; 3rd in Region 2A-2B; 3rd in Class 2 state.

Key losses: Sinead Juday, MaKenzie Reshetar, Lauren Suling, Ele Welch.

Key returnees: Emily David, Sr.; Sophia Deem, So., (1st in area in 50-meter free last year, state champ and district champ, 27.83, and 2nd in 100 free, region champ, 1:01.49); Cynthia Fairbanks, Sr. (2nd in area in 50 free, region champ, 28.16); Maeve Lyman, Sr. (3rd in area in 100 breast, 1:22.97); Stephanie Miller, Sr. (2nd in area in 100 breast, 1:10.24); Emma Suling, Jr.; Tess Whalen (5th in 500 free at Class 2 state meet), Sr.

Key newcomers: Kayla Sprincis, Fr.

Marshall’s outlook: “We have a strong senior core. They are definitely providing a lot of leadership. I think the girls are going to be pretty competitive. There was a lot of close races against Sherando, so that was a good way to start our season. The girls have focused and responded well in practice. Sophia is starting off pretty strong. She’s not where she left off at the end of the season, but she’s ahead of where she was last year at this time. Cynthia Fairbanks is starting off pretty strong. She had a 27.1 [in the 50-yard free against Sherando], which is almost where she left off at the end of the season last year.”

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at
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