There were tears of joy mixed with tears of sadness in the Thomas S. Wootton High School section of the Germantown Indoor Swim Center pool deck after Saturday night's Washington Metropolitan Interscholastic Swimming and Diving Championships.
The Patriots erased a seemingly insurmountable 76-point deficit following the diving portion of the competition to knock off defending champion Winston Churchill for their first-ever Metros title. But they were unable to share it with the person it likely would've meant the most to: former 14-year coach Howard Blume, who passed away unexpectedly in April.
“Everyone is saying it's bittersweet. It's a well-deserved win, the culmination of a fantastic season. But then [Blume] should be here,” first-year Wootton head coach Jacqueline Emr said. “This is incredible. There aren't words for how amazing this win feels.”
Wootton finished with finished with 392 points to defeat second-place Churchill, which had 386. Sherwood, out of Montgomery County's Division II, took third place with 292 points.
On the boys side, Gonzaga won its third straight Metros title with a 340.5-320 advantage over Georgetown Prep. Our Lady of Good Counsel rounded out the top three.
Saturday was a truly historic night and everyone felt the increased excitement and intensity, Good Counsel senior Jack Conger said.
Ten total meet records were broken, five of them set by Conger himself. In addition, four national high school records were eclipsed, two apiece by Conger and Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart sophomore and Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky.
Conger, a University of Texas recruit, won all four events he swam — 200-yard medley relay, 500-yard freestyle, 100-yard backstroke, 400-yard freestyle relay — in record-setting fashion. He added his fifth Metros mark and set an national independent high school record with his 100-yard freestyle split (42.81 seconds) to open the Falcons 400-yard freestyle relay.
His time of 4 minutes, 13.87 seconds in the 500 freestyle snapped a 30-year national high school record by 2.52 seconds.
Ledecky, who broke the 500-yard Metros and national high school record she'd already set in Friday's preliminary round, bested Missy Franklin's independent high school record (as of Nov. 19) en route to winning the 200-yard freestyle Saturday. Ledecky's time in the 500 (4:31.38) is also the third fastest time in the history of the event, just .91 seconds from the all-time American record held by Katie Hoff since 2007. Ledecky also anchored the Gators' winning 200-yard freestyle relay.
Wootton junior Kristina Li fought off illness to set two Metros records Saturday, symptomatic of the emotional adrenaline that propelled the Patriots Saturday, Emr said.
Li broke her own meet mark in the 100-yard backstroke to successfully defend her title — she out-touched Churchill freshman Hannah Lindsey, who beat her during the regular season, by .34 seconds — and set a Metros record in the 100-yard butterfly.
She also led off the Patriots' winning 200-yard medley relay squad that set a Montgomery County Public Schools record.
Holton-Arms School sophomore Caroline McTaggart set the 10th meet record, besting her own 100-yard freestyle time from last winter's championship. McTaggart also won her second straight 50-yard freestyle title.
Georgetown Prep's Grant Goddard (200-yard freestyle, 100-yard butterfly) and Carsten Vissering (200-yard individual medley, 100-yard breaststroke) and Gonzaga's Paul O'Hara (50-yard freestyle, 100-yard freestyle) were the meet's only other multiple individual event winners.
Emr said if Saturday night's finals played out the way the morning's preliminary races went, Wootton would have lost by 34 points.
“I scored it out and if everyone did the same as they did in prelims ... but 34 points is not unmanageable. With this many teams, there are so many factors. I asked the kids one question, I said, 'How badly do you guys want this?' And they wanted it badly,” Emr said.