WINFIELD - There's something about the annual Carroll County Invitational swim meet that brings even the most competitive swimmer back each year.
It's why Christopher Ratliff, in his final county meet Wednesday, started his 50-meter backstroke by doing a cannonball to enter the pool. And why Emily Vance couldn't wait to remove her swim cap and shake hands in the water with her closest challenger following their backstroke race.
It's why young and old traced the deck at South Carroll Swim Club sporting everything from inflatable penguin pool toys, to temporary tattoos that say "Eat My Bubbles," to enjoying the ever-popular "Taco In a Bag" from the concession stand.
The 345 swimmers entered in this year's invitational seemed to share one common thread.
"I've just always found it a lot of fun," said Ratliff, a recent Century High graduate bound for Washington & Jefferson in the fall. "You get to see everyone in the county, and it's nice to not be in the winter swim [mode], I guess, for a change. And I started here, so it's nice to be at my home pool."
Winter swim, for Ratliff and many others in attendance, usually means daily practices before the sun rises and school starts. And for the year-round swimmers, they're doing the same thing while many of their friends are sleeping the mornings away.
Those results are gratifying, but the county meet is a different sort of satisfaction.
"There's a lot less pressure," Ratliff said.
That doesn't mean Ratliff and his fellow swimmers took it easy in the pool.
Four meet records went down Wednesday, three coming from South Carroll's Mia Mesceda. She set new marks in the 9-10 100 individual medley (1 minute, 18.81 seconds) the 50 freestyle (31.58), and the 50 breaststroke (18.28). Mesceda's breaststroke time took down a 20-year-old record - Amy Hancock swam 19.49 back in 1993.
Carroll Aquatics' Dan Moreno set the other county record when he won the 15-and-over 100 IM in 1:01.71. Moreno clipped SC's Matthew Tomsuden, his Loyola Blakefield schoolmate, for the title.
"Whenever I do my competitive club meets in the winter, I don't see any kids from Carroll County," said Tomsuden, an Eldersburg resident. "Dan will be the only one I see. It's pretty cool to see everybody else here."
Moreno won four county titles Wednesday while South Carroll's Megan Fields earned three golds on the girls side. Carroll Aquatics' Emily Vance brought home a pair of county titles, and said she enjoys the meet for the chance to reunite with friends on other teams.
"This is a really fun, competitive environment," said Vance, a Finksburg resident and Westminster High School student. "I think because it's summer, it's more relaxed. This one, you don't have to qualify for. You just want to do well and have fun."
9-10 100 IM: Connor Stewart (FR) 1:26.22
11-12 100 IM: Sam Rea (SCSC) 1:18.63
13-14 100 IM: Gabe Moreno (CASC) 1:09.75
15-over 100 IM: Dan Moreno (CASC) 1:01.71
6-under 25 free: Adam Hare (NSC) 27.37
8-under 25 free: Andy Dvorak (WST) 18.93
9-10 50 free: Connor Stewart (FR) 33.13
11-12 50 free: Justin Sabo (WRC) 31.91
13-14 100 free: Ryan Ratliff (SCSC) 1:02.62
15-over 100 free: Dan Moreno (CASC) 53.7
6-under 25 back: Adam Hare (NSC) 31.75
8-under 25 back: Colin Murphy (SCSC) 24.5
9-10 25 back: Christopher Tomsuden (SCSC) 19.43
11-12 50 back: Justin Sabo (WRC) 36.03
13-14 50 back: Gabe Moreno (CASC) 33.56
15-over 50 back: Dan Moreno (CASC) 29.1
8-under 25 fly: Andy Dvorak (WST) 21.43
9-10 25 fly: Connor Stewart (FR) 17.5
11-12 50 fly: Justin Sabo (WRC) 33.75
13-14 50 fly: Ryan Ratliff (SCSC) 31.27
15-over 50 fly: Dan Moreno (CASC) 26.89
8-under 25 breast: Gabriel Erb (CASC) 26.53
9-10 25 breast: Joseph Benedictis (WRC) 21.34
11-12 50 breast: Evan Frick (NSC) 41.16
13-14 50 breast: Ryan Ratliff (SCSC) 35.57
15-over 50 breast: Jared Vance (CASC) 31.73
9-10 100 IM: Mia Mesceda (SCSC) 1:18.81
11-12 100 IM: Allison Tomsuden (SCSC) 1:18.13
13-14 100 IM: Megan Fields (SCSC) 1:13.31
15-over 100 IM: Emily Vance (CASC) 1:11.09
6-under 25 free: Sarah Litz (WRC) 27.03
8-under 25 free: Lauren Helminiak (SCSC) 19.38
9-10 50 free: Mia Mesceda (SC) 31.58
11-12 50 free: Abby Dvorak (WST) 30.78
13-14 100 free: Megan Fields (SCSC) 1:03.21
15-over 100 free: Karly Hursey (CASC) 1:02.44
6-under 25 back: Peyton Richards (NSC) 31.1
8-under 25 back: Sarah Fischer (WST) 23.19
9-10 25 back: Abbie Shorter (NSC) 18.22
11-12 50 back: Isabella Mawry (WRC) 35.57
13-14 50 back: Megan Fields (SCSC) 35.47
15-over 50 back: Emily Vance (CASC) 31.56
8-under 25 fly: Erin Budde (SCSC) 21.56
9-10 25 fly: Mia Mesceda (SCSC) 16.1
11-12 50 fly: Allison Tomsuden (SCSC) 34.18
13-14 50 fly: Joan Halsey (SCSC) 34.22
15-over 50 fly: Brooke St. Martin (NSC) 30.88
8-under 25 breast: Julia Lucas (FR) 27.91
9-10 25 breast: Mia Mesceda (SCSC) 18.28
11-12 50 breast: Haley Benedictis (WRC) 40.94
13-14 50 breast: Cameron Ducey (FR) 38.09
15-over 50 breast: Sarah Ritter (CASC) 36.81