MacLennan’s a respected star


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Few would debate that Gar-Field swimmer Brett MacLennan’s times in most events are impressive.

But what’s more impressive is how he’s handled being the area’s fastest boys swimmer three years running, and the respect he’s earned from his counterparts while doing it.

“He’s always just amazing to watch,” Forest Park coach Melanie Deberardinis said earlier this season.

MacLennan does have a list of in-the-water accomplishments that would stretch the length of the pool. He could add a few more to his register beginning today at the Group AAA championships in Virginia Beach, as he goes for individual state titles in the 200-yard individual medley and 100 backstroke. He’ll also anchor the Indians’ medley relay, which may be seeded as high as second.

Last year, MacLennan set Northwest Region records in the 200 IM and 500 freestyle. He broke both of those records on Tuesday, at this year’s region meet, even though his team came up short in its quest for a regional championship.

Despite his individual success on Tuesday, MacLennan was genuinely disappointed.

Though he said on Wednesday that missing out on a regional team title in his senior season didn’t make it “a horrible meet,” he did admit that he avoided talking about swimming on the four-hour bus ride home from Hargrave Military Academy on Tuesday.

That’s MacLennan: talented and likable, yet focused and team-oriented.

Woodbridge’s Sarah Lindberg, who also swims with MacLennan year-round at Occoquan Swimming, acknowledges that MacLennan is amazingly fast. Yet, she says, he stays humble.

“He always says there’s room for improvement,” she said.

The goal-oriented 17-year-old usually does improve.

“For Brett, every time he gets in the water, he always goes a best time,” says good friend and year-round teammate Janel Danchak.

Gar-Field teammates like Andrew Hicks joke about the team records they once held, until MacLennan swam every event during dual meet season, setting all the team records. Before the Cardinal District meet, MacLennan held the county’s fastest time in eight individual events. Gar-Field also had the fastest times in all three relays, each of which MacLennan was a part of.

His in-water prowess has him mulling a scholarship offer from UC-Santa Barbara and invitiations to visit Florida State, Ohio State and South Carolina. He’s already turned down a scholarship offer from East Carolina.

Yet for as far as his effort in the pool may take him, his attitude towards life has earned his as much praise.

“He’s going to go far,” Lindberg said.

“His laugh is what makes his personality,” says Danchak, who says MacLennan gets really excited and starts to shake at the funniest things.

His Gar-Field teammates also have high praise for him.

“He’s not very vocal, but he’s the backbone,” Hicks said. “He sets his own goals, and he reaches them.”

“He’s the guy we fall back on,” agrees junior Jonathan Orndorff.

MacLennan returns the praise for his teammates.

“I’m honored to say I was on the team at Gar-Field,” he said. “All of those guys are good friends.”

Indian head coach Rob Knoeppel has praised everything from MacLennan’s work ethic to the team-first attitude he displays, something not always true of elite swimmers.

Nancy Doggett, who coaches for Woodbridge and QDD, said MacLennan is a great example of a swimmer who is committed to his year-round club and still gives his all to his high school team.

MacLennan loves the team-oriented atmosphere, the people he meets and the fun he has.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “Who wouldn’t want to do it?”

MacLennan’s senior class, which also includes Hicks and Kyle Estep, will graduate having gone 27-1 in dual meets. They also won three district titles, including two that came before the Cardinal split to create the Cedar Run District.

Losing last year’s district title to Woodbridge was a particularly devastating defeat, especially for a team that had grown used to winning. But MacLennan and Knoeppel say the team rededicated itself right after that loss, and started regrouping the following week by finishing ahead of the Vikings at the regional meet.

This season, regaining the district title was something the Indians talked about all season, and accomplished confidently.

“Definitely getting the district title back was a huge accomplishment,” MacLennan said.

His biggest personal accomplishments could come in the backstroke and IM on Saturday afternoon.

“First in both would be awesome,” MacLennan said. “I’d totally forget about the whole regional thing.”

He’s got a great chance at the backstroke. Hoping to swim it in 51 seconds, he thinks Stonewall Jackson’s Michael Cartwright and a Northern Region swimmer who has done it in 53 seconds are his main competition. In the IM, he’ll have to go against Mike Ott, the Oakton swimmer who beat him in the same race at the state championships last season.

But if what his friends, teammates and opponents know about Brett MacLennan holds true, he’ll bring home a championship.

“He’s going to win,” Danchak said.

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