Woodbridge wins Cardinal championship

WOODBRIDGE — Winning Saturday night’s Cardinal District Swimming Championships was almost a given for the Woodbridge girls, who ebntered the meet fully expecting to win their sixth consecutive title.

But it wasn’t until freshman Brad Blair glided the final 25 yards of the 400-yard freestyle relay without a challenge did championship reality set in for the Viking boys.

In a meet that featured several close finishes plus close friends and competitors hugging over the lane dividers in shows of respect, the closest race was the battle for the boys team championship. Woodbridge, which trailed Gar-Field by three with two events left, topped the Indians 138-127. Hylton finished third with 120 points and Forest Park scored 73.

“It’s the best feeling in the world,” said Vikings senior captain Aaron Blackburn. “We’ve been losing to [Gar-Field] for four years now. We beat them last Friday [in a dual meet] and we came back and beat them in the district championship. It’s the best feeling.”

Freshman Andrew Mazzella provided the Vikings with a 12-yard lead to start the final relay off, and Ryan Gibbons, Mike Bryce Jr. and Blair sealed the team’s win.

“It was crazy,” said Mazzela, one of three underclassmen (Bryce is a senior) on that relay team. “It was just a blast.”

The Viking girls ran away with the championships on the strength of first-place finishes in all 11 events.

Casey Quimby, Janel Danchak, Sarah Lindberg and Meagan Clearly each won two individual events and each took at least one more first place as part of a relay team.

“For the girls,” said Quimby, “we pretty much knew we were ahead. But we wanted to get behind the boys.”

Quimby said its been hard for the girls to win a lot and not see their male teammates have much success. But that, she said, made the win sweeter.

“It’s not one person we have that stands out,” Quimby said. “We don’t have a Brett MacLennan. But we have a lot of depth and I think it helped today.”

Gar-Field’s MacLennan donned a cardboard American flag-styled top hat and pointed at the crowd from the Chinn Center medal stand. His strong start the junior notched three first-place finishes in the first three boys events and set new district standards in his individual wins helped Gar-Field surge to an early lead, but it wasn’t enough to give the Indians their third title in as many seasons.

There were a number of highlighted duels that made the meet one of the most exciting in the event’s short history.

Danchak edged Gar-Field sophomore Liz Penning by three one-hundredths of a second during a back-and-forth 200-yard individual medley race. The two faced off again in the 100-yard breast stroke, and after Danchak won again acknowledged each other with a hug on the medal stand.

Hylton’s Troy Sattgast and Russell Wood helped keep the Bulldogs in the hunt two points separated third place from first after the 200 free relay but Woodbridge won with depth.

The best surprise of the night likely came in the men’s backstroke, where Forest Park’s Jameson O’Brien knocked more than three seconds off of his seed time to win the district championship in that event.

But depth carried the day for both Viking teams, and the two team titles had coach Nancy Doggett and her assistants waist-high in the shallow end of the Chinn Center pool in celebration.

Melanie Van Horn, a Woodbridge senior, acknowledged the precedent set by previous Woodbridge girls teams. This team just had to live up to that, she said.

The top eight finishers in each race advance to Saturday’s Northwest Region Championships at the Chinn Center.

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