The dynamic of high school swimming statewide was shifted this winter when Montgomery County joined the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association competition for the first time since the state meet’s inception in 2007.
Montgomery athletes won all 22 events at the 4A/3A championship and set 16 meet records. The 2011 champion Urbana girls’ fifth-place finish was by far the best of any school from Frederick County.
But the Frederick area boasts its own bunch of elite-level swimmers and that number is rising rapidly thanks to the growth of the Frederick Summer Swim League.
Most top-level swimmers originate in summer league, where they dive into the pool for the first time, third-year Clover Hill head coach Julie Thackston said.
Thackston, who swam for two years at the University of Maryland, College Park, is one of several college swimmers who have returned to coach in the FSSL to give back to the league that started their careers and promote swimming to the next generation of talent.
Thackston was forced to walk away from competitive swimming after her sophomore season following her second hip surgery, and she just underwent her third this spring.
Her older sister, Jen, also swam for the Terrapins and coached at Clover Hill.
“One of the main reasons I came back was because everything the [FSSL] gave me,” said Hood Hammerheads coach Andrew Brabson, who recently completed his college swimming career at Denison University in Ohio. “I think you really develop some attributes through competitive swimming that help you in college and life, not just in swimming. I think as long as we can encourage young swimmers to start swimming and find a love for it, it’s going to help develop the high school teams as well.”
The FSSL, which was founded in the late 1980s, is basically still in its infancy compared to other Maryland summer leagues, such as the 54-year-old Montgomery County Swim League and the 53-year-old Prince-Mont League, which spans six counties in Maryland plus Washington, D.C.
Having the high-level swimmers who have come out of it return could be the start of a prosperous cycle. Summer league swimmers are encouraged to seek year-round swimming opportunities.
Recent Frederick High graduate Hanne Borgerson, who is scheduled to swim on a scholarship at the University of Virginia in 2012-13, is part of the second generation of FSSL swimmers.
Borgerson, who swims for the Hammerheads, is one of the top distance swimmers in the country. She won four events at the Maryland 3A/2A/1A state meet in 2011 but club team commitments kept her out of high school swimming in 2012.
“I think the kids look at these coaches and realize they started out exactly where they are,” Borgerson said. “They start out just the same and shows you can turn into that too. I think the best coaches are the ones who went through it themselves. They grew up hearing it and now they’re telling it to the kids.”
Brabson said there is a sense of Frederick pride when a swimmer represents the area well. Accomplishments like Borgerson’s help promote the sport in an area where it is still growing.
“I love Frederick,” Borgerson said. “In a way it’s cool because other teams are expected to be better. There aren’t as many facilities around here. People look at us like we’re all bad teams, but there are actually some really good swimmers here.”