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Penguins end Tigersharks’ title reign

(Published March 11, 2002)

By BRIAN BRADFORD

Staff Writer

Wilson Senior High School’s girls swim team dominated DCIAA swimming for more than two decades – until March2.

The School Without Walls Penguins bested the Tigersharks 119-109 at Dunbar’s swimming pool to win the 31st Annual Swimming and Diving Championships.

Wilson’s stronghold on public school swimming lasted until the last event of the day, the 4 x 100-yard freestyle relay. Penguins senior Stephanie Alexander sprinted out to a lead that proved to be too much for the Tigersharks. Caroline Harn led the Penguins in scoring by finishing first in the 100-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke events, winning her the "Most Valuable Person" honors.

Local participation in swimming as a competitive sport has been drowning in recent years. The DCIAA swim league has diminished from seven teams and 192 swimmers in 1978 to three teams and 65 swimmers in 2002. The league’s schedule has decreased from 12 meets per season to one meet a year – the championship.

Meeting Wilson for the first time in the championship caused School Without Walls to work harder than they would have needed to if they had competed against the Tigersharks earlier in the year – giving them an idea of Wilson’s strengths and weaknesses.

"On top of that, Coach Craig kept switching swimmers at the last minute and changing events," said Penguins Head Coach Michael Kingsbury. "There’s no sense in having rules when people will break them to win."

School Without Walls is one of the city’s smaller public high schools, with an enrollment of 330 students. There is no swimming pool in their building, but the Penguins made arrangements with Dunbar Senior High and American University to use their swimming pools for practice. The 22 members of the swim team (13 girls and nine boys) had to provide their own transportation to and from practices all year.

Without league meets scheduled, the Penguins had to swim against Maryland schools to maintain a competitive edge.

"We swam against triple-A and AAAA competition all year, so the girls were ready for and wanted this (DCIAA) meet," Kingsbury said.

Kingsbury is a Metro Transit Police officer and is unable to keep tabs on his swimmers while they are in school.

"If I worked in the building with them, I could interact with them more, know what they’re doing in class and monitor them better," the coach said. "I’d like to do a better job of watching what they eat. They eat everything."

Kingsbury’s grip on his team gets tighter this off-season as most of his team will be swimming for him in the Junior Olympics Club. Eleven of his 13 female swimmers are returning next year.

Wilson’s boys were able to maintain their eight-year reign at the top of the league by narrowly edging School Without Walls 73-71.

Copyright 2002, The Common Denominator