It was one happy group of C. Milton Wright girls swimmers who gathered poolside last night at Magnolia Middle School to celebrate the Mustangs' third straight Harford County swim title.
However, it would be hard to blame Maureen McLaughlin if she was feeling a little more satisfaction than the rest of her teammates.
A horrific car accident in July, in which McLaughlin, a passenger, was ejected out of a backseat window and had the car roll over on her legs - sustaining both head trauma and a leg injury - left McLaughlin wondering if her high-school swimming career was over.
But the junior returned to the pool about a month and a half after the accident and culminated a standout season last night, capturing gold medals in the 100-yard freestyle, the 100 backstroke and swimming the second leg of the 200 freestyle relay team, which finished first and set a county record.
The Mustangs racked up 343 points, nearly 100 more than second-place Fallston (245).
"I value this a lot because from what people tell me, I almost didn't make it," said McLaughlin, who has no recollection of the accident. "My teammates made me think I could do what I accomplished today."
The win, coupled with the Mustangs boys' second-place finish on Wednesday, also clinched the third straight team title for C. Milton Wright, which totaled 570 points, easily beating runner-up Fallston (439) and third-place Bel Air (434).
"We had a lot of confidence going in, and the guys definitely pulled their end of the deal," said senior Patty Rawlick, who captured four gold medals and set two meet records. She turned in a 2:09.31 in the 200 IM, beating the old record by nearly 2 1/2 seconds. She also was the anchor on the record-breaking 200 freestyle relay team that swam a 1:41.59.
"This is exactly what I wanted to do: break a couple of records and go out on top."
Another meet standout was Havre de Grace's Britta Nelson, who won the 50 freestyle, becoming the first Warriors female to win a county title in nearly 20 years, according to coach Aaron Thompson.
Betsy Balaguer won three gold medals for Bel Air, but it was too much C. Milton Wright as the Mustangs medaled in every event, and took home six golds.
"For the girls, this is a proud moment," Mustangs coach Larry Ashman said. "It's very satisfying to break a couple of records and perform like this."