Some of the more popular blogs over the past few years have been Q&A columns with our coaches - so that has been the approach that I have taken this fall and winter. That noted, this week’s The Week That Was is a Q&A session with our long-time swimming coach, Evan Stiles.
Q. Talk to me a little bit about your boys and girls swim/dive teams this winter, really summing up how your season went and what the future holds for both programs including any team highlights that occurred over the past four months.
I will start with our boys team…we sort of had a Jekyll and Hyde type of team. This was mainly due to low numbers, only having eight swimmers and two divers. In dual meets, we had a tough time winning because we lacked depth in most events, finishing with a 3-7 record. We had a very good core group, but we weren’t able to fill all the lanes, thus giving away points to teams that could fill their lanes. Once championship meets came along, out boys team did well because our top swimmers were placing well and our relays did well. Depth didn’t matter as much, because you just need to have some swimmers that can place in the Top 16 to score. Our top swimmers were Chris Outlaw, Andrew DiBenedetto, John Stahlman, and Sean Bergmann. These four combined to score most our points throughout the year as well as in the championship meets. At all of the championship meets, our boys were consistently in the top five or six teams.
Our girls team was a little different. They had some great top-end swimmers but were also able to have good depth throughout most events. This allowed them to have a little more successful dual meet season, finishing 6-4. At the championship meets, we had some girls place well but we just missed out on getting a few extra swimmers into finals where they could score points. The girls team usually finished in the top eight or nine teams. Some of our top performers were Sydney Catron, Sarah Cahill, Isabell Baltimore, Molly Ellor, Gabriella Baltimore, Alex Simonson, Lauren Simonson, and Maureen Duesterhaus.
Q. I keep hearing good things about Chris Outlaw and his exploits for the AquaKnights. Talk to me a little bit about Chris and his accomplishments this season plus any others, boys and girls, who had outstanding individual achievements. Why are these swimmers who they are?
Chris Outlaw had a great senior year. He was our league champion and state champion in the 50 free and the 100 free. He broke the school record in both of these events, and his 50 free time earned him the honor of automatic All-American. Chris has always been a great sprinter, and he has worked hard this year at really fine tuning all the little aspects of his race. It was great to see this hard work pay off.
On our girls team, Sydney Catron had a really great year. She suffered through some shoulder issues early in the season, but she worked hard to get better and she was definitely the most consistent girl throughout all the Championship meets. She finished in the top eight in the 200 free and the 100 back at all of our Championship meets, really helping to spark our girls’ team.
Q. Through the grapevine, I hear that our Boys 200 medley relay team came up big at States. Kudos! Give me a little insight to that quartet and what makes them special. Again, be specific when discussing their strengths. Anybody else come up big at States?
Our boys medley relay was pretty special this year but not for reasons you may think. What made them unique was that two of the boys swim year-round and two boys only swim during the high school season. 99.9% of all the top swimmers in this area are committed to swimming 12 months a year. They practice every day, putting in about 20 hours a week. You can see, with this type of work ethic, that swimmers work hard and they get faster. Our two year-round swimmers on this relay were Chris Outlaw and Sean Bergmann. So, what makes the relay special was Andrew DiBenedetto and John Stahlman only practice with the O’Connell team for 2-3 hours a week depending on the schedule. These two boys were able to really come up big, not only in the relay but also in their individual events, both placing well at States. The relay finished second at States, which was a huge accomplishment for these four. It helps that each of the four were able to swim their strongest stroke on the relay. Sean Bergmann swam backstroke, the breaststroker was John Stahlmam, Andrew DiBenedetto was the butterflier, and Chris Outlaw anchored the relay swimming freestyle.
Q. Looking at the season in its entirety, are you pleased with how the 2014-15 campaign transpired? Any surprises or major disappointments?
At the end of every season, I am always pleased if the team did the best it could, gave a lot of effort, and bonded as a team. This year was one of those years. Maybe the scoreboard didn’t always come out in our favor, but the kids always showed up ready to swim to the best of their abilities, cheer for their teammates, and have a great time. As a coach, I want the swimmers to have every opportunity they can to try and improve and try new events, I want them to enjoy the process, make new friends, and remember the experience of being a part of the O’Connell swim and dive team.
Q. Anything else that you would like to add?
I haven’t really mentioned anything about our divers. We had five divers that did a really great job this year. Our girl divers were Maddie Kelly, Anna Flach, and Susie Rodriguez. These three girls swept the diving event at the NOVA Catholic Champs, all three finished in the top 10 at National Catholics, and they all made the state team. Our boy divers were Danny Metzmaier and Dominc Bernero. Dominic placed 14th at National Catholics and WMPSSDL Championships. Danny finished 11th at National Catholics and 9th at States.
This is Tommy Orndorff and that was The Week That Was.