Mason Swimmers Shine Among Single-A Competition at State Meet

Swimmers from the George Mason High School boys and girls varsity swim teams gave stand-out performances while competing in the Virginia High School League state meet last weekend. After undefeated district seasons, and first-place finishes at the Bull Run District and Region B meets for both teams, the single-A Mustang teams faced stiffer competition at the state meet, swimming against both single-A and double-A competitors.

Among fellow single-A schools, the boys swim team placed first and the girls placed second, finishing behind Patrick Henry High School. However, in the greater meet, the boys and girls teams placed 29th and 37th, respectively, in fields of more than 80 teams.

For their performances throughout the season and in the Region B meet, 17 swimmers from George Mason qualified to compete at the state meet.

Qualifiers were narrowed down in preliminaries to the top 16 finishers in each event. Three single-event swimmers and two relay teams moved into the finals for a total of eight competing swimmers from George Mason.

“Overall, this is the best result as a team we’ve ever had at the state meet, in terms of the number of swimmers who made it to the finals,” Coach Jon-Michael Lemon said. He added that the number of swimmers who qualified, as well, was the greatest number the school had ever seen.

Of those 16 finishers who qualified for the finals, the top eight compete in a primary final, and the bottom eight compete in a consolation final in each event. This year marked the first time George Mason qualified a swimmer in an individual event from the boys team in the primary final.

The girls 400-yard freestyle relay team of junior Julia Estrada, freshman Angelika Johns, senior Leah Thirkill, and freshman Beth Cashin placed 16th in the finals at 3:59.95. With their finish in the preliminaries, the girls broke a team record with a time of
3:59.50, knocking five seconds off the previous record, set in 2009.

That they qualified for the finals was “a pleasant surprise,” according to Lemon. “That group of four girls had not swum together in that event the entire season, and I decided to give them a shot swimming together in the 400.” Lemon said he picked the four fastest swimmers on the team in the 100-yard freestyle event to compete together, giving Thirkill, a senior, a chance to compete in the final meet of her high school career.

The boys 200-yard medley relay team of junior Lucas Cherry, senior Sam Cashin, sophomore Austin Gogal and sophomore Nick Roberson placed 15th in their event with a time of 1:46.06.

In individual events, Cherry brought home a medal with an eighth-place finish of 55.66 in the 100-yard backstroke. Also competing in the 100-yard backstroke was Roberson, who finished 13th (57.60). Cherry was also slated to compete in the 100-yard freestyle event, having been seeded 14th in the preliminary round, but with a knee injury taking its toll, Lemon said he and Cherry decided it would be best for Cherry to only compete in the event in which he had the best seed. By stepping out of that race, Cherry let the #17 seed from Briar Woods into the race. That swimmer, senior Eric Guessford, went on to break a team record and take 10th place in the event.

For the girls team, Cashin placed 14th in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:11.84). Earlier in the season, she had broken a team record for her time in the event, which she trimmed to 1:11.76 with her finish in the preliminaries.

“To have these three swimmers, as well as several other participants, coming back next year, that sets the tone for definitely a competitive team,” Lemon said, “and it definitely gives us a lot of momentum going into our second year being back in the single-A.”

With a team of record-breaking swimmers set to return, and a crop of talented eighth-grade competitors waiting for their spot on the varsity team, Lemon said he has his sights set on repeating district and region titles next year.