Swim and dive makes a splash in local competitions


The WCHS swim and dive team celebrates after their first meeting against Blair. The team would eventually go on to dominate the competition.

From the very first meet of the season, the WCHS swim and dive team showcased their dominance in the pool, setting the tone for what would be a record-breaking year. With each competition, the team proved to be a force to be reckoned with, leaving their competitors trailing far behind. Their success is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the athletes, coaches and support staff, who have worked tirelessly to help the team achieve greatness.

We came in focused knowing that we have a huge opportunity to win,” WCHS junior and recent commit to Duke University for swimming, Samir Elkassem said. “So we went out and won four out of five dual meets, divisionals, metros and regionals so far. We still got states next weekend which we know we got a big opportunity to win as well.”

The team’s success last season proved to many that this team was not messing around. So far, the season has highlighted an unprecedented win at Metros (a swim and dive competition hosting 22 of the metro area’s top public and private schools) and a divisional title. In the end, the team has been anxiously waiting since metros or regionals the defend their coveted state championship on Feb. 25.

“[Last season’s success] definitely put a lot of expectations on our behalf,” Elkassem said. “It really boosted our confidence, especially for this year, knowing we have an even stronger team.”

The 2023 season was met with some challenges. For one, expectations were high as the season marked the return of a team attempting to defend their championship titles, despite a new team and a new coach. 

“I think the hardest challenge was how we got a new coach this year, especially since our coach has to figure out what everyone swims and what events he has to put us in,” Elkassem said. “It was a little challenging, but it didn’t take long to get to know Coach Dennis and we all love him. He came in knowing that we can win, so he gave us the motivation we needed.”

During the offseason, Dennis Witol was named the new head coach for the swim and dive team. A former Division Two swimmer from Bentley University and former head coach of the Saint Vincent Pallotti High School in Laurel, M.D., Coach Witol understood from the start what he was undertaking and how to retain the same success as last year.

“As a coach, whenever you inherit a team coming off a championship, I was worried about that ‘championship hangover,’” Witol said. “But the team was never complacent and always respected me and the goals we set from day one.”

From the start, the boys team kicked it off with a decisive win against Blair in December, while the girls slowly found their momentum. In the end, the team reclaimed their metros title as well as a division and regionals win. They hope to win the state competition at the end of February to bring home back-to-back championships for WCHS.

“The boys have met all expectations and in my opinion, the girls have had some amazing swims from both sides of the team and the divers have been amazing this year,” Witol said. “Outside the pool, the culture of WCHS swimming is amazing, every teammate is supportive of each other, and it had blown me away.”

Another difference that helped the team this year was the student section. With the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions becoming lax, the team did not have to worry about having no fans in attendance, making this year’s dawg pound louder than ever. 

“We were still recovering from COVID-19 [last year], and people were not allowed to come out and watch our meets and support us,” Elkassem said. “This year, though, many friends came out, and it really made a difference; it made us a bigger family.”

As the season draws to a close, the WCHS swim and dive team can look back with pride at all they have accomplished and look forward to even greater success in the future regardless of the upcoming hurdles.

“I am looking forward to having another great last season and winning everything,” Elkassem said. “Next season is going to be a very strong one as well. We are going to lose many good senior swimmers, but we will just become stronger.”