By Jeff Nations
STRASBURG -- Central High School's boys swim team isn't ready to make room at the top for its neighbors, and the Falcons kept their place at the top of the heap with an impressive performance in the Shenandoah County Meet on Tuesday at Signal Knob Recreation Center.
Central's girls, also tops among the county schools for the past two years, also did their best to retain that status. Strasburg's girls had other ideas, and the Rams showcased quality and depth in dethroning the Falcons for the girls title.
"I really commend the Strasburg girls and the work that [Strasburg's] Ina Rae [Crisman] has done as a first-year coach," Central coach Steve Shaffer said. "My girls are not giving it to them. They're working for it, and they really have done an impressive job."
The Rams rolled up 224 points in the girls meet to top Central (119) and Stonewall Jackson (52). Central's boys won with 214 points, followed by Strasburg (123) and Stonewall Jackson (94).
In the boys meet, Central's 1-2 punch of Trevor Wolf and Jonathan Feaster helped the Falcons roll up points all night. The pair hold or share part of every boys school record, with the exception of the 500-yard freestyle mark currently held by Ethan Coleman. Wolf picked up wins in the 50 free (23.47 seconds) and 100 free (54.06), while Feaster was first in the 100 butterfly (1:04.10) and second in the 100 backstroke (1:02.26).
Feaster, a senior and the Falcons' team captain, came up just short in his duel with Strasburg's Josh Stickles in the 100 back. Feaster led most of the way before Stickles found something extra for the closing 25 meters to post a winning time of 1:02.26.
"He kind of came from behind on that one and pulled it out against Feaster," Crisman said. "That was a really exciting race."
Stickles added an individual win in the 200 individual medley (2:14.53), but the Falcons' impressive depth was too much to overcome. Other individual winners for Central were Aaron Waller in the 200 free (2:13.13), Coleman in the 500 free (5:59.72) and Taishi Ukai in the 100 breaststroke (1:19.01).
The Falcons also swept all three relays. Feaster and Ukai combined with Daniel Molina and John Paul Schechtel to win the 200 medley relay (1:59.84). Waller, Molina, Schechtel and Wolf teamed to win the 200 free relay (1:42.37) and Waller, Coleman, Wolf and Feaster rolled to victory in the 400 free relay (4:11.34).
"On the boys side, it was just a great team effort," Shaffer said. "I'm blessed with a lot of wonderful talent that I get to work with. They're having a whole lot of fun. Top to bottom, you can see the fun they have."
Stonewall Jackson didn't pick up any individual wins in either the boys or girls competition, but the Generals got some strong individual performances including a second-place effort by Daniel Mathes in the 100 butterfly.
"I had kids cut their times by a good, significant amount tonight and I'm proud of them," said Stonewall coach DeeDee Knauff, who has just eight boys and five girls swimming this year. "We set a new school record in the 100 butterfly (1:05.42), Daniel Mathes, so I'm proud of that. He worked hard and cut a couple seconds off that one."
Strasburg's girls had six individual winners -- Cassie Cooper in the 200 IM (2:47.78), Makayla Cook in the 50 free (29.13), Marissa Sager in the 100 fly (1:24.40), Madison Orndorff in the 500 free (7:13.66), Kennedy Smalls in the 100 back (1:23.25) and Kristen Dolly in the 100 breast (1:25.63).
Dolly staged one of the night's best races with Central's Sydney Crosser, who nearly held on for the win before finishing in second by just 10ths of a second.
Central's Bethany Neri notched individual wins in the 200 free (2:30.69) and 100 free (1:03.72).
"Bethany Neri had a great night," Shaffer said. "She won two events, and almost pulled out two relays for us, too."
Neri was a formidable anchor for the Falcons in the 200 free and 400 free relays, closing the gap each time before ultimately falling short as the Rams swept all three.
In the 200 medley relay, Smalls, Dolly, Sager and Orndorff won by a relatively comfortable five-second margin in 2:21.22. Orndorff had to work hard to fend off Neri in the closing leg of the 200 free relay, but held on to join Cook, Sager and Cooper as the winning group in 2:03.18. Central was second in 2:04.90. Cooper had to push hard at the end in the 400 free relay to beat Neri in an even closer finish. Orndorff, Smalls, Cook and Cooper picked up the win in 4:43.41, but Neri's closing charge made Central a close second (4:43.62).
Crisman was just glad to get her team back in the pool after the unplanned weather break.
"We haven't been in the water for a week because of all this weather," Crisman said. "And sickness -- boy, they have all been sick. So it's exciting to do well when you only have nine boys and 13 girls."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>