Sherando girls win first district swimming title in seven years

WARRENTON — No one was able to defeat the Sherando girls’ swimming team during the regular season, and the Warriors refused to let the various illnesses running through the team ruin that streak on Saturday.

Sherando captured its first postseason title since 2013 with a dominant effort at Saturday’s Class 4 Northwestern District Swim Championships at the Warrenton Aquatic & Recreation Facility, scoring 70 more points (313-243) than runner-up and two-time defending district champion Kettle Run.

The Warriors had several girls compete after battling the flu this week and did not have freshman Chelsea Jones (the fastest swimmer in Winchester-Frederick County in four individual events) because of illness.

But once again, Sherando showed its star power and its depth. The highlights included five wins in the 11 events, with junior Emma De Jong playing a part in three of them.

De Jong shattered Kelsey Dingman’s school-record 100-yard freestyle time of 54.97 seconds set in 2014 with a time of 53.41 seconds (she won by 2.67 seconds), captured the 100 breaststroke by nearly two seconds in 1:06.51, and closed out the meet by helping the 400 freestyle team to a nearly three-second victory in 3:45.80. All are state-qualifying times.

The top-seeded Warriors were surprised by James Wood in the meet-opening 200 medley and took second in that event, but they rebounded quite nicely.

“From top to bottom, we had a solid performance from our kids all night long,” Sherando coach Joe Knight said. “We had a terrible flu bug going through the school and through our team, and we had some kids just coming back from that, so we didn’t know how we were going to perform tonight. I think it’s a credit to our team, not having one of our top performers like Chelsea, to pull together and come through and put in some really good swims and come away with the district championship.”

Knight was particularly pleased for seniors Kyra Schultz, Gracie Twigg, Jordyn Jones, and Eleanor Lunde, who were a part of teams that took second to Kettle Run at the district meet the last two years. Sherando beat the Cougars in all four of their meetings this year.

“They have been instrumental in our girls’ team successes over the past four years, and for them to win was very rewarding,” he said. “Each swam very well and contributed to winning the championship.”

James Wood placed third in the eight-team meet with 225 points. Millbrook was fifth with 92 and Handley was sixth with 82. The top eight individuals and top four relays in each event and those with qualifying times advanced to the Region 4C meet that will take place on Feb. 15 at the Claude Moore Recreation Center in Sterling.

Schultz said she couldn’t have been prouder of the team, whose members joyously passed the district trophy around to each other after the meet.

“We’ve worked really hard through the last four years, and our overall depth has helped us win each meet,” Schultz said. “It’s just awesome. I love it.”

Schultz noted she appreciates Sherando’s sportsmanship because the Warriors support not only their teammates but also those on other teams.

De Jong said she enjoyed getting to compete against her friend Paige Simko of James Wood. Simko (56.08 in the 100 free, 1:08.47 in the 100 breast), the runner-up in both of De Jong’s events, swam state-qualifying times as well and helped push De Jong to her sizzling performances.

“I wasn’t expecting to go as fast as I did based on my training coming into the meet,” said De Jong, who defended her district title in the 100 free. “So I’m really surprised and really happy.”

De Jong teamed with sophomore Natalee Tusing, Jordyn Jones and freshman Taylor Smith on the 400 free relay team. The 200 free relay team of Jones, De Jong, Smith and freshman Lexee Schellhammer still had a state time in taking second in 1:52.87, 0.41 behind the Colonels.

Other top performances for the Warriors came from Smith (first in the 500 free in 5:38.83, second in the 200 IM, 2:15.44, state time); Schellhammer (first in the 50 free, 26.30); Schultz (third in the 200 free, 2:05.48), Tusing (third in the 100 free, 58.48), junior Hannah Motley (third in the 500 free, 6:25.78), Jones (third in the 100 backstroke, 1:03.85) and the 200 free relay team of Schellhammer, Schultz, junior Lindley Armel and Tusing (second in 1:46.24).

“The girls who swam in the 500 really kind of turned the tide for us,” said Knight, who also received a fourth-place finish from sophomore Stella Wallin in that event. “We went 1, 3, 4, and that was a lot of points we really needed. We knew Taylor was going to swim well, and she walked away with it and had a PR. Hannah was sick all week long and swam great, and Stella swam great, too.”

James Wood had its fair share of outstanding performances as well, led by its two victorious relay teams that each set school records.

The Colonels’ 200 medley relay team came in as the third seed and dropped more than seven seconds off its seed time to get to 1:52.46. That team featured junior Kimberly Warnagiris, the sophomore Simko, sophomore Leah Snapp and freshman Lauren Masters. The same group teamed to win the 200 free relay in another state time, recording a 1:44.38 to win by almost two seconds.

“I am so proud of our relays,” Warnagiris said. “Our goal was to take first, and we did. We were the underdogs from the beginning and we just pushed through and won it.”

James Wood coach Jessica Barr noted that the Colonels’ 400-free relay took fifth but dropped 20 seconds.

“To see those relays get up and go was definitely a highlight,” said Barr, who noted that some of her swimmers put behind some disappointments in their individual performances to help the relays excel.

Individually, Warnagiris was disappointed to take third in third in the 100 fly. The winner in that event last year, she lost by just 0.14 to Fauquier’s Isabel Robey in a state time of 59.37. But she came back later with a stellar 100-yard backstroke, recording a state and season-best time of 1:01.73 to win by 1.22 seconds.

“I was really surprised [by my backstroke time],” Warnagiris said. “I really wanted to come back from the 100 fly and do my best.”

Barr said she was impressed by a lot of individuals, but particularly Masters because of her condensed schedule. Within the first six events (roughly 25 minutes) she swam on the medley relay, placed second in the 200 free in 1:58.29 in a state time, then won the 200 individual medley by almost two seconds in a state time of 2:13.64.

“She matched her best times in both her individual events,” Barr said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better performance. She’s a natural competitor.”

Snapp also took second in the 500 free (5:56.14) for James Wood.

The Millbrook girls were paced by its 400 freestyle relay team of sophomore Olivia Webster, sophomore Avery Sigler, junior Emma Shipp and sophomore Lyddie Esslinger, who placed third in 4:11.86.

The Pioneers were also hit hard by illlness. Head coach Priscilla Elliott was not present at the meet because of the flu. Esslinger only competed in relay events because she’s getting over the flu.

“For being sick, we had a lot of athletes step up,” Millbrook assistant coach Will Sigler said.

Handley was paced by its 400 free relay team of Claire Zombro, Ren Delaney, Molly Young and Sullivan Morefield (fourth in 3:48.76).

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