WJ girls’ swim and dive race to victory at Metros


Andrew Resnick, Head sports print editor

   Maryland is one the of the top-rated swimming areas in the country. Some of the best swim club teams in the nation, such as Rockville Montgomery Swim Club (RMSC) and Nation’s Capital Swim Club (NCAP) are in our backyards. With second to none swimming talent, specifically in Montgomery County, many private schools attempt to bolster their swim teams by recruiting some of the top male and female swimmers around.

   Katie Ledecky and Jack Conger, two swimmers from Montgomery County in last summer’s Rio Olympics, were graduates of Stone Ridge and Georgetown Prep respectively, two of the top private schools for swimming in the county. With that in mind, it is even more remarkable to fathom that on February 11, the WJ girls’ swim and dive team brought home a first place finish in the 2017 Metropolitan Interscholastic Championships, led by senior captain Katie Ellett.

   “We wanted to encourage everyone and get into their minds that we could [win metros],” Ellett, an Old Dominion commit, said. “We all knew that we had a chance and we didn’t want to give that up.”

   With last year’s Metros loss to Churchill and Sherwood High School’s still fresh in their minds, Ellett and her fellow captain, senior Celine Nugent, tried to keep positive and motivate their teammates both at practices and at meets.

   “Cheering on your teammates really can make a huge difference at meets.Personally, I always swim faster knowing that I have my teammates behind my back,” Ellett said.

   After beating Churchill head to head in early December, Ellett and her teammates knew that division, so we weren’t sure what to expect from they had a chance to go far this year.

   “We were all aware of how [Churchill] went last year and how much talent they have this year,” Ellett said. “It kind of opened our eyes to see that we were able to beat a team that good.”

   Following their December victory over Churchill, the girls’ team set their eyes on beating them and Sherwood a little less than two months later at Metros.

    “It was surprising to win against Churchill because they have been the best girls team for a while,” junior Kiki Bonetta-Misteli said. “It was stressful though because we didn’t win by much  so we knew we would have some tough competition throughout the season.”

   Although it took a lot, Ellett thought that stellar coaching made a big difference in preparations for Metros.

      “I think that [head coach] Jamie [Grimes] did a really good job of getting us prepared to face some of the top talent in the area,” Ellett said. “He really knows what he’s doing.”

   Grimes, a former Olympic trial qualifier, has headed the team for the past 14 years. Using his experience as an All-American swimmer at the University of Virginia, Grimes has turned the swim team around while becoming one of the most prominent coaches in the area. Even with all of the training and preparations done before Metros, Ellett and her fellow teammates were still anxious about the upcoming meet.

   “After beating Churchill, we all knew that they were going to come back faster and even harder to beat,” Ellett said. “We hadn’t faced Sherwood yet this year because they aren’t in our hem.”

   “Everyone worked super hard going into Metros, and we did a good job of getting everyone really excited and in a good mental state. It’s always super important to be prepared like that for high pressure meets like Metros,”  Bonetta-Misteli said.

   Despite the nerves, the team came out and performed very well, winning the first girls Metros title in WJ history. The combination of upperclassmen such as Ellett, Nugent and Bonetta-Misteli, mixed with younger talent such as freshman Molly Benson and sophomore Maya Drill, avenged the girls’ loss at Metros last year, keeping their unbeaten season intact. The team beat out Sherwood by a large margin of only 28.5 points, and Churchill followed in third 9.5 points behind Sherwood. In addition to the stellar swimming performance, the girls’ team was also supported through the efforts of senior Sheridan O’Kelly who placed 20th in the diving competition, earning a point for the team. O’Kelly’s fellow senior diver, Haley Tomlinson, was out with a back injury.

   Ellett, who is nearing the end of her four-year tenure on the team, still feels that although the team is losing many strong swimmers to graduation this year, with the right leadership and hard enough work, the potential to perform very well next year still exists.

   “I’m confident that [the girls team] will do well next year. There is still a lot of really good, young talent which can take the team far in the future,” said Ellett. “As for leadership, I would tell next year’s captain to give positive feedback to the swimmers and to stay spirited and have fun.”

   With the return of many young, skilled swimmers including the likes of Bonetta-Misteli next season, the girls’ team should be able to continue their prestige among their competition in the coming year.

   The state championship took place last Saturday at the University of Maryland. Coverage will be available soon on wjpitch.com.