Summer League Spotlight: Montgomery County Swim League

By Reach for the Wall Staff Writers.

In a previous article, we highlighted each of the 12 summer swim leagues in our area, which have played key roles in making the Washington D.C. metro area a national hotbed for swimming that continues to produce Olympic gold medalists and a long line of scholarship athletes.  We now will begin a series of articles that focus on teams and athletes within some of these leagues, starting with the Montgomery County Swim League (MCSL).

MCSL, founded in 1958, has 90 teams located in Montgomery County, Maryland and approximately 14,000 swimmers.  The league is divided into 15 divisions, and (similar to the Northern Virginia Swimming League) the 6 teams in each division compete each Saturday in dual “A” meets and in divisional relay and individual championship meets. Teams also hold “B” meets on Wednesday nights for those who don’t qualify to swim in the Saturday “A” meets.

In the middle of the summer, the swim league hosts a USA Swimming-sanctioned Coaches Long Course meet for the 8 fastest swimmers in each event, and at the end of the season, it sponsors an All-Star championship short-course meet for the 16 fastest swimmers in each event and an All-Star relay meet for the fastest relays from each division.

Teams are assigned to divisions each year based on a computer swim-off using times from the previous year (i.e., contrary to popular belief, division assignments are not based on teams’ win/loss records from the prior year).  That is, at the end of each season, MCSL creates a virtual team for each MCSL team using the median times from its 5 dual meets and then runs a computerized swim-off (i.e., virtual meet) of each virtual team against every other virtual team.  The 6 teams that have the most wins end up in Division A, and those with the fewest wins (or new teams to MCSL) are placed in Division O.  Here are the division assignments for 2016.

Below are some highlights of each division in the league.  In several weeks, after team rosters are fixed, we will identify some MCSL swimmers that you might keep an eye on.

Division A

In 2015, Division A retained the same six teams (Stonegate, Rockville, Upper County, Tilden Woods, BethesdaWoodcliffe) as it had in 2014, the first time this has happened in Division A since 2007.  This year, however, the division has 2 new teams (Germantown, Tallyho), and Bethesda and Woodcliffe dropped to Division B.

Rockville has been a continuous member of Division A since 2001, Tilden Woods since 2005, Upper County since 2008 and Stonegate since 2011.  How do some teams remain in Division A for many years?  It’s anyone’s guess, but one or more of the following factors may play a role:

  • Long-Term Coaching.   A coaching staff who has coached a team over many years likely contributes to a team’s long term success in Division A. For example, Upper County has enjoyed a strong, committed coaching staff for over 20+ years that included former head coach, Jen Taylor, her brother, Jonathan Taylor (now the head coach at Woodcliffe), Shannon King and Jacob Ado (who was promoted from assistant to head coach this year).  Stonegate head coach, Brian Cheng, and his experienced coaching staff have been a fixture for the Serpents for 12 years.  And, Tilden Woods also has benefitted from stable, long-term coaching that includes current head coach (and long-time Dolphin), Elena Spak, and former coaches, Jenn Barnes Williams and Nick Kaufman.
  • Convenient Location.  Summer and club teams that practice at the same site or close to each other can be an attractive convenience to swimmer and parent alike.  For example, Rockville’s MCSL and RMSC teams both swim at the Rockville Swim & Fitness Center.  Tilden Woods is close to RMSC’s KSAC site and NCAP’s Georgetown Prep site, and Stonegate isn’t far from RMSC’s MLK site.
  • Cost / Waiting List.  The overall cost to swim for public pools like Rockville, Upper County and Germantown generally is less than for private clubs, and public pools have the added bonus of not having waiting lists.

Although Stonegate is the two-time defending league champion, Rockville is the #1 seeded team in MCSL this summer based on the computerized swim-off process described above.  The fight for the division and league title this year likely will be between these two teams.  The meets between the other four teams should be close, intense affairs, and the difference on a given Saturday may come down to which team loses the least swimmers to competing PVS meets (e.g., the UMAC Red & Black LC Invitational meet falls on the same weekend as the Tallyho – Tilden Woods meet).

Division B

Bethesda, a mainstay in Division A since 2006, has benefitted over the years from a strong core of committed swim families from ASA, NCAP and RMSC and from a steady supply of young, new swimmers attracted to this conveniently-located public pool in downtown Bethesda.  Last year, however, the Barracudas lost an alarming amount of its nucleus, so success this year for the division’s #1 seeded team will depend on the extent to which this team can rebuild it.

Woodcliffe, which fell to Division B with Bethesda, lost its dual meets with the Barracudas in both 2015 (by 48 points) and 2014 (by 6 points!), so they may look to exact some revenge against their down county rivals this summer.  With its stable of fast swimmers and spirited leadership from head coach, Jonathan Taylor, the Wahoos are a popular pick to take this year’s division crown.

Connecticut Belair (one of the original 6 teams in MCSL in 1958) and Country Glen both have largely competed in Division D over the last four years, so their jump this year to Division B has turned heads.  These two teams also are reputed to have some of MCSL’s most fun and spirited environments, so we look forward to covering the dual meet between these two.

Wildwood Manor and Northwest Branch swam together in Division G in 2012 and have rocketed up the standings over the past 4 years.  With their talented rosters and strong leadership, don’t be surprised if one of these teams is wearing the division crown at the end of July.

Division C

Glenwood and Cedarbrook both were founding members of MCSL in 1958 and find themselves as division rivals in 2016.  Trivia:  how many times have these 2 teams battled each other in the same division over the last 58 years?  

In more recent history, Glenwood has made steady progress up the division standings from Division F in 2012 and 2013 and Division D in 2014 and 2015 to the #1 seed in Division C this year.  Cedarbrook has been a fixture in Divisions B and C since 2012 and won Division C last year and Division B in 2013.

Woodley Gardens and Darnestown are familiar rivals, having competed in the same division 3 of the last 4 years (i.e., Division C last year, and Division B in 2014 and 2012).  The Waves have bested the Demons in the divisional standings 2 out of those 3 years.

Last year, Potomac Woods tied Tallyho for 2nd place in Division B, yet the Demons fell to Division C this year while Tallyho and Division B’s champion, Germantown, moved up to Division A this year.  How you ask?  Those are sometimes the odd results of how MCSL calculates division assignments (explained at the top of this article).  The silver lining here, however, is that the last two times Potomac Woods competed in Division C, they won (in 2012 and 2014).  Will the Demons win another Division C title in 2016?

After sliding from Division B in 2012 to Division C in 2013 to Division D in 2014, Potomac Glen arrested their fall by winning the Division E crown in 2015 and then leaped back up to Division C this year.

Division D

Mill Creek Towne has spent 3 of the last 4 years in Division B, so some are betting that this year’s 2nd seeded team in Division D will regain its past form and win the Division D title this year.  The #1 seed, Manchester Farms, however, who swam in Division B in 2014 and Division C in 2015, also is a good bet to win the crown this summer.

Regency Estates (seeded 3rd) also will have a say in the division race this summer.  RE beat Manchester Farms last year by 35 points in their dual meet, but MCF out-touched the Sailfish in Division C standings in 2015, so RE will have some extra motivation this year to beat the Dolphins in its quest for the division crown.

Last year, River Falls barely beat Hallowell in their dual meet and slipped ahead of the Hurricanes in the final Division D standings, so Hallowell may look to get even this season.  River Falls has finished 4th in Division D for the last three years straight (and 4th in Division C in 2012), so what are the odds they finish 4th again this year?

Flower Valley also has spent the last three seasons in a single division – Division F – and after winning that division’s title last year, made a big jump to Division D this year.  The Frogs looks to enjoy similar success in their new pond this summer.

Division E

Last year, Old Georgetown beat Kentlands in both their dual meet and the final Division E standings, so the Kingfish may be looking for revenge against OGC.  Similarly, Robin Hood bested Garrett Park (also an original MCSL founder in 1958) in both their dual meet and the final Division F standings, so the Ladybugs may look to squish Robin Hood this summer.

Quince Orchard and Clarksburg Village are the tale of 2 teams – the Otters fell from Division B to Division E this year while CLK has blasted up the division standings from Division O, where they started when they joined MCSL in 2013.  But don’t underestimate QO – given their talented roster, their fall in the division standings may be due largely to oddities that sometimes result from how the league calculates division assignments.

Be sure to check out the sage articles that Clarksburg Village’s head coach, Jenni Halem, writes for our Reach for the Wall site (see e.g., herehere and here).

Division F

King Farm is a popular pick to win the division this year, but many think Damascus and/or Stonebridge could upset the Screamin’ Geese this season.

Last year, Damascus beat Mohican by only 9 points in their dual meet but Mohican returned the favor by edging Damascus by only 2 points in the final Division F standings.  Expect more drama from these two teams this season.

In Division G last year, Franklin Knolls beat their long-time rival and “frenemy”, Rock Creek, in their dual meet and the final division standings, so the Fins will be looking for some payback against FR this summer.  By several accounts, Franklin Knolls has the best breakfast grill in MCSL and great spirit (but Rock Creek is gunning to beat FR in the spirit-department this year, too).

Division G

Daleview bested Westleigh last year in Division E in both their dual meet and the final division standings, so the Barracudas will have Daleview in their sights this year in Division G.  Similarly, Bannockburn beat Palisades last year in their head-to-head meet and in the Division H standings, so Katie Ledecky’s summer team may seek to right that wrong this year.

Little Falls is the only team in this year’s Division G who was in the division last year, where they came in 5th. Lake Marion has battled in Division I for the last three years, which they won in 2015, so they are a team to watch by jumping up two divisions this year to Division G.

Division H

Curiously, Olney Mill drubbed Lakelands by 133 points in a Division G dual meet last year, but LLD came out well ahead of OM in the final division standings and is the #1 seeded team in Division H this year (while Olney Mill is seeded 5th).  We’ll keep an eye on the interesting dynamic between these two teams this year.

This is the third year in a row that North Chevy Chase and Merrimack Park have competed in Division H together.  The Maniacs beat the Sharx by 20 points last year and 6 points(!) in 2014, but NCC bested MP in the final 2015 and 2014 divisional standings.  Look to see a fun, intense meet this year from these two evenly-matched teams.

Clopper Mill has spent the last four years in Divisions J and K, so they will be a team to watch in their jump up to Division H this year.  North Creek leaped from Division L in 2012 to Division F last year, but fell back down to Division H this year, so they’ll be looking to reverse their slide and climb back up the divisional standings next season.

Division I

Potomac and Chevy Chase Recreation Association have had some close battles with each other over the last two years.  Last year, Potomac edged CCRA in the Division I standing even though CCRA beat Potomac by 49 points in their one-on-one encounter.  And, in 2014, Potomac bested CCRA by 25 points in their dual meet and by 8 points in the final Division G standings.  Look for more drama between these teams in 2016.

Potomac also should get plenty of competition from Rockshire and Tanterra this year.  Last year, Potomac edged Rockshire in the Division I standings and by 9 points in their head-to-head meet, so Rockshire also will be a team looking to take Potomac down this year.  Tanterra fell from Division H last year to Division I this year, so they’ll have some extra incentive to win out and climb back up to a higher loft in 2017.

Old Farm and Kenmont (one of the original members of MCSL in 1958) battled each other in Division J last year, with Old Farm edging Kenmont in both their dual meet and the final division standings.  Look for them to continue their rivalry this year.

Division I promises to be very close and competitive this year, and the final outcome could very well come down to who performs best at relay carnival and Divisionals.

Division J

All of the teams in Division J this year are new to it except for Poolesville, which came in 5th in Division J last year and is the division’s 4th seed this year.

Inverness Forest (#1 seed this year), which spent 3 of the last 4 years in Division H, and Seven Locks (#5 seed), which spent the last 4 years in Division I, both seek to reverse course this year and climb back up the divisional standings next year.

Conversely, 2nd seeded Forest Knolls and #6 seed Manor Woods are teams on the rise and seek to continue their momentum of success over the last several years.  Forest Knolls is the defending champion of Division L , where it spent the last 4 years, and Manor Woods jumps up to Division J this year from Division K, where it has swum for 3 of the last 4 years.

Last year, Glenmont lost both their dual meet and the Division L title to Forest Knolls, so the Gators seek to repay FO for their villainy and continue its improvement within the league.

Division K

Whetstone and Somerset were the only 2 teams from this year’s Division K that competed in that division last year. Somerset beat Whetstone by 1 point (381-380!!) last year in their dual meet and edged the Whales for the Division K crown, so Whetstone should be ready to address that outrage this year.

Calverton and Ashton know each other well given that many of the kids on these teams go to school together, they swim B meets together, and they competed in Division J together in 2014 (Calverton beat Ashton then), so that will be a fun meet to watch this year.

Clarksburg Town Center is in its 4th year in MCSL and has steadily climbed up the standings since its maiden season in the league.  Many in the division consider them a darkhorse to win the division this year.

Norbeck Hills won Division K in 2014, and competed in Division J last year, and is back in Division K this year as the #1 seed.  Ashton, Calverton, Somerset and Whetstone all competed in Division J together in 2014, when Calverton won the division crown and the other 3 teams all tied for 4th place.  Look for lots of fireworks in this division this year.

Division L

Last year, Twin Farms beat Montgomery Square in Division L standings even though MS beat TF in their dual meet (by 8 points).  Twin Farms also bested Willows of Potomac in Division L in 2015, so both MS and WLP will be looking to top the Tigers this year.

Carderock Springs competed in Division K in 2015 and 2014 and in Division J in 2013 and 2012, so the #1 seeded team will be looking to win the division title and begin its ascent back up the divisional standings.

In 2014, Eldwick beat Quail Valley in last year’s Division M standings even though Quail Valley beat Eldwick by 37 points in their head-to-head meet.  Look for fireworks at the Marlins – Sharks clash this year.

Divisions M – O

We apologize for the lack of coverage on the teams in divisions M, N and O – we weren’t able to collect sufficient data from these teams to offer a meaningful summary of each division.  But, we hope that teams in these divisions will help us rectify this situation by sending us feedback and photos from your meets each week so we can highlight your teams and swimmers, too.

Good luck to all MCSL teams this summer – swim fast and have fun!

3 thoughts on “Summer League Spotlight: Montgomery County Swim League

  • May 23, 2016 at 1:39 am

    Great coverage of MCSL, the ranking method is still not quite clear to me. Could you please do another post, exactly how the ranking is calculated?

    I am puzzled when you said, “division assignments are not based on teams’ win/loss records from the prior year)”. What exactly is “computer swim off”?

    • May 23, 2016 at 4:22 pm

      Below is a post that describes MCSL’s division assignment process a little more clearly. As we understand the process, MCSL (i) creates 1 virtual team for each MCSL team based on the median times from all 5 of that team’s dual meets and then (ii) runs a virtual meet between every virtual team (similar to how Reach for the Wall runs virtual meets). The team with 90 wins (meaning their virtual team beat every other virtual team in the league) is the top seed of Division A. The team with no wins is the lowest seed in Division 0 (excluding new teams to the league).

      Once folks understand that a team’s actual win/loss record doesn’t matter for purposes of division assignments, they tend to worry less about if their team wins or loses each week (unless they’re super focused on winning the league or division crown that year or just hate losing).

      Yes, we’ll interview the MCSL computer gurus to better understand the process and then post a story on it. BTW, we understand other leagues (e.g., NVSL) determine division assignments differently from MCSL, which we’ll also try to understand and explain.

  • May 28, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    Pools such as Rockville do not belong in MCSL. The team is a summer league entry for RMSC.


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