When first-year Rebels coach Maureen McCarthy struggled to find someone to swim at a McLean meet earlier this month, a Fairfax diver accepted the challenge.
“We had to scratch one of our relays at McLean because each girl had already swam their (maximum) two relays,” McCarthy said of the Dec. 9 meet. “One of our divers, Lizzy Naka, said she would swim fly for it and that was awesome.”
Naka decided to swim the 200-meter breaststroke as well. The diver/swimmer came up huge for her Fairfax High School team with two points in an event she never trained for.
“That’s what all sports are about – stepping up, doing your best,” McCarthy said. “We might not be the fastest team, but we are one with a lot of heart.”
The Rebels have seen mixed results early in the 2011 season. They lost their first meet against Madison, but came within eight-points of beating McLean in their second. Several individual athletes nabbed regional times in only the first two weeks of the season.
“After our first meet we lost by 100 points, but I told them ‘you guys had a phenomenal meet,'” McCarthy said. “I had a kid drop 19 seconds off of his 500-freestyle time and that’s unbelievable at 16 years old. You can come in fifth place in every meet and still have a great season.”
Matty Ferguson qualified in the 50-meter freestyle with a 25.38 and the 100-meter breaststroke at 1:09.04. Marla Surette, Natalie Dillinger, Christie DeFlumeri and Ferguson qualified for the Northern Regional meet in the 200-medley relay with a 1:09:04 and the 200-free relay at 1:44:84. John Kim made his cut in the 500-free and 100-backstroke, while Alex Parker and Brian Neil qualified for the postseason diving competition this weekend against Langley.
McCarthy, who gives well-deserved credit to her assistant/dive coach Kenny McAdoo, said she and her staff believe it is important that the athletes recognize their competition is first against themselves and not their opponents.
“I think swimming is a win-win sport,” she said. “Even though we’ve lost the last two meets, any time you can cut or stay the same, you have won. I tell the kids ‘you are not racing the other team, you are racing yourself.’ The fact that they tried out, showed up, and pushed themselves hard, they’ve won.”
McCarthy's focus is to make sure every one of her athletes wants to return to the pool next year.
“My goal is to build a team that people want to be on,” she said. With her guidance, the team is building a community. They go over their goals, play charades and meet at Providence Elementary School every Thursday for dinner. All students are required to take the bus to meets and to pair up with a "spirit buddy."
McCarthy said she is impressed with the results so far and believes her teaching experience has helped greatly in the transition to coaching at the high school level.
“I was a teacher before this for Fairfax County,” she said. “I think that it’s a basic human way people want to be treated good and to be encouraged, challenged, appreciated and it’s important to find that balance.”
Fairfax competes next at Audrey Moore against Marshall on Jan. 6 at 8:30 p.m.