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More motivation for Straehle swimmers

Connor Stewart stood out among his peers thanks in part to his swim cap, which was emblazoned with the American flag.

The 13-year-old didn't need Old Glory to make a statement, however. His skills in the pool proved that point.

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Stewart won three races Wednesday at the Straehle Championships, a prestigious qualifying meet that drew more than 1,000 swimmers from 47 teams to Four Seasons Sports Complex.

Stewart, whose summer already included breaking four long-standing Freedom Swim Club records, earned first in the 100-meter individual medley, the 50 freestyle, and the 50 breaststroke in the 11-12 age group. He has been dominating his Central Maryland Swim League competition this year, and Wednesday was no exception.

"I have a lot of friends from winter swim here," said Stewart, who is a Eagles Swim Team member at McDonogh in the winter. "I like racing them, and beating them."

Stewart was one of four boys from Carroll teams who took home Straehle titles. Westminster Swim Team's Brendan Moran won the 8-under 25 backstroke, while South Carroll's Matthew McGoey placed first in the 15-over 50 back and Luke Isayiw won the 13-14 50 breaststroke.

The county swimmers who frolicked with their friends a week ago at the Carroll Invitational were tested against the best in the area Wednesday. And the performances showed.

Case in point — Olympic champion Michael Phelps held four Straehle meet records from his days at Meadowbrook in Baltimore, but one of them fell Wednesday when Baltimore Jewish Community Center's Alan Cherches won the 9-10 25 butterfly in 14.44 seconds (Phelps had the record at 14.53, set in 1996).

Four Seasons hosted the meet for the 10th consecutive year, much to the delight of director Mike Kremer. When he wasn't coaching his Carroll Aquatics Swim Club swimmers, Kremer sat along the pool deck, in the shade of a white tent but close enough to the action to take it all in.

Kremer made sure to point out the pleasant conditions for this year's meet, from the 76 degrees and sunny skies to the breeze that stuck around most of the day.

"We really dodged a bullet" with the good weather, Kremer said. "No complaints."

One of his swimmers, Emily Vance, turned in a first-place finish in the 15-over 100 IM (one lap of each stroke). The Westminster High School student said participating in the Straehle has a different feel than other championship meets.

"When you swim against so many people that you know, it makes you more competitive," Vance said. "If it's someone you know, or a friend, you're like, 'I've got to beat them.' I like to win as many as I can, and then I'm trying to get [a] CMSL record."

South Carroll's Mia Mesceda won the 100 IM and the 50 breast in the 11-12 group. Nottingham's Rachel Skowron won the15-over 50-breast, Westminster Riding Club's Sophie Long took the 8-under 25 fly, and SC's Megan Fields finished first in the 150-over 100 free.

The Straehle features different level of competitors, from multi-winners to record-setters to lifers who love the sport.

Like veteran Coeli Love, 17, a Westminster Swim Team member who raced in the freestyle, back, and fly Wednesday. Two 12th places and a 23rd didn't deter Love from enjoying the day and remembering why she starting swimming in the first place.

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"You see the girls that are training every day, and I just do it as a summer sport to stay in shape for lacrosse," Love said between deep breaths following her freestyle swim. "You see them, they're training every day, and you want to beat them. It's, like, the best workout you can for lacrosse, or any sport in general. I'll definitely miss it, but I'm happy I have one more season of winter before I'm done."

BOYS CARROLL WINNERS

11-12 100 IM: Connor Stewart, Freedom (1:10.16)

11-12 50 free: Connor Stewart, Freedom (27.89)

8-under 25 back: Brendan Moran, Westminster Swim Team (21.46)

15-over 50 back: Matthew McGoey, South Carroll (28.7)

11-12 50 breast: Connor Stewart, Freedom (36.68)

13-14 50 breast: Luke Isayiw, South Carroll (32.59)

13-14 200 free relay: South Carroll (1:52.77)

GIRLS CARROLL WINNERS

11-12 100 IM: Mia Mesceda, South Carroll (1:12.92)

15-over 100 IM: Emily Vance, Carroll Aquatics (1:10.09)

15-over 100 free: Megan Fields, South Carroll (1:00.48)

8-under 25 fly: Sophie Long, Westminster Riding Club (19.98)

11-12 50 breast: Mia Mesceda, South Carroll (35.9)

15-over 50-breast: Rachel Skowron, Nottingham (36.47)

OTHER WINNER

15-over mixed 200 free relay: Nottingham (1:45.13)

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