This week’s record cold weather could catch the Holton-Arms School swimming and diving team a little more off guard than usual. The Panthers just returned from a week-long team training trip in sunny Miami, Fla.
While this was Holton’s first trip to Florida International University, the Panthers have been taking team trips every other year for about 12 years, coach Graham Westerberg said. Holton trained four hours each day, two hours in the morning and two more in the afternoon. Though the Panthers would have trained at their own pool to stay in shape over the break, Westerberg said there is something special about traveling as a team and training in a new environment.
“[These trips] benefit the team by bonding and certainly training hard,” Westerberg wrote in an email. “We would train hard anyway over the break, but with the ability to train outside and practice twice a day, it sets us up for what I hope to be a great end of the season.”
Holton has won eight Independent School League titles in 10 years but was usurped a year ago by a Katie Ledecky-led Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart team. The Panthers’ own leading scorer, Caroline McTaggart, had to miss the meet after receiving an invitation to train at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. This year’s championship, scheduled for Jan. 24, should be something special.
Saturday’s Division I competition between Richard Montgomery and Montgomery Blair was pinned in preseason by most Montgomery County Public Schools coaches as the marquee matchup on the boys’ side. The Rockets have lived up to their end and remain the only undefeated boys’ team in the county’s upper echelon — that includes this week’s win over two-time defending Class 4A/3A state champion Walter Johnson.
But the defending state runner-up, Blair, has yet to notch a win this winter. Richard Montgomery coach Aryn Wheeler said the Rockets still have to be careful not to overlook the still dangerous Blazers.
Blair is propelled by a core of talented high scorers, including Michael Thomas and Brian Tsau, but Richard Montgomery’s deeper lineup is more beneficial in a dual-meet atmosphere, giving the Rockets an edge on paper.
This time last year it was a close loss to Walter Johnson that gave Richard Montgomery the belief it could compete among the county’s best. Saturday’s win could be a springboard into a historical postseason.
“Defeating WJ this past weekend, the boys were excited about that and it gives them more confidence going into the end of the season,” Wheeler said. “[Walter Johnson] isn’t as strong as they were last year but just the fact of knowing they did beat the state champions, it gives them momentum.”
Saturday’s Winston Churchill/Walter Johnson meet features the two remaining undefeated girls’ teams. Though Churchill is seeded to win that one, the Wildcats have come out from behind their male counterparts’ shadow for the first time in recent years.