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Capital Gazette 2023-24 All-County girls swimming: Severn’s Aliza Monaldo finished a dominant career with perfection to be Swimmer of the Year

Capital Gazette 2023-24 All-County girls swimming: Severn’s Aliza Monaldo finished a dominant career with perfection to be Swimmer of the Year

Aliza Monaldo thinks about the things she can control: Kick off the wall three times. After every turn, pick one thing to focus on.

Small meets never bothered the Severn swimmer much, but the heftier ones that put cut times, records or championships like glittering trophies at the end of the last lap? The nerves used to creep over, before and during races, especially when she started swimming for gold as a sophomore.

But this past season, when Monaldo, now a senior, stepped on the block and dove into the blue water at the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland B Conference championships, her mind was clear and determined.

“‘This is the last time I’m doing this,’” she thought. “It’s been really fun coming to this meet every year, and I’m gonna swim. I’m gonna put my head down and try as hard as I can.”

When Monaldo sliced through the water at Edgewood High on Feb. 4 through the eight lengths of the 200-yard freestyle final, the scoreboard greeted her at the end with the fruits of her mental labor: not only the title, but redemption, too. With a 1:55.16 time, she preserves a record in the event.

Soon after, the Admirals senior propelled to a 5:08.86 time in the 500 freestyle, protecting her individual title for a third time by a gap of more than 20 seconds before anchoring the 400-yard freestyle relay to gold (3:57.71).

A quiet girl on shore, the Severn senior radiated power in the pool. Her perfection as she swaps a Severn suit for a Boston University one earned her 2023-24 Capital Gazette Girls Swimmer of the Year.

“It’s sheer talent, and desire, and drive that she just has. ‘This is my event,’” Severn coach Erin Domenech said. “‘You’re going to really have to come out and beat me.’”

In her mind, Monaldo’s mental shift was everything. She started training later than most college-bound swimmers, at age 11, because she felt she lacked the hand-eye coordination necessary for other sports. Her dedication deepened as watching the accomplishments of Power Five and Olympic swimmers lured her heart and watching teammates commit to college spurred her plans.

The 500 free was the only event she swept in her three years at Severn (her freshman season reduced to practices during the ongoing pandemic). The then-junior hit the wall behind Maryvale’s Ava Vercollone in the 200 free in 2023, and her team lost the 400 free relay, too.

But in her first season, Monaldo not only swept, she brought in the only individual gold medals that year for the Admirals, and depth lifted Severn to the team win.

“In sophomore year, I was stressed. I was the younger part of the team, but we were trying to win,” Monaldo said. “It was a lot more time-oriented.”

College concerns replaced those initial jitters, Domenech could see, and it seeped into her senior season. But the coach could also see Monaldo metamorphize the moment she put her suit on.

“She’s gonna go over it later: ‘What could I have done?’ I don’t know if she’s ever won and fully accepted ‘I did that.’ There was always something more to work on,” Domenech said. “But when she’s on the pool deck, she goes to the mindset she has to be in.”

Those mental exercises helped still her own mind. Another way to escape is just to look around. Club swimming feels more intensely personal. She’s swimming for a time that’ll make a cut or attract a college’s eye.

“But being on a team for your school, it’s a little bit more satisfying,” Monaldo said.

Her place as the program’s buoy light in the water didn’t change. But her role on dry land did. A senior and captain, she shirked her introverted veil and found herself trying to talk to, mentor as many teammates as she could — during practice and out, about swimming or something else.

And as her behavior changed, so did her perspective.

“You can’t hide from your times. You’re going to nervous in swimming because it’s pretty individual, and it feels like it’s all on you. But I see people who are new to the sport, or are worried for races, and it reminds me it’s normal,” Monaldo said. “That it happens to everyone, no matter who you are.”

Broadneck swimming tied Crofton for the boys county title. (Tracey Sanders/AACPS Athletics)
Tracey Sanders (for AACPS Athletics, with permission to The Capital)
Broadneck swimming tied Crofton for the boys county title. (Tracey Sanders/AACPS Athletics)

Coach of the Year

Colleen Parr Winans, Broadneck

Consistency propels Broadneck, and Parr Winans, to this category nearly annually, but with good reason. The Bruins girls were Teflon in the regular season — completely unbeaten — before going on to three-peat in the county championships by a whopping 51-point margin over runner-up Severna Park. She carried four individual championship wins, as well as one relay, before going on to take third place overall at the Class 4A/3A East Regionals, without most of her club swimmers.

All-County individuals

Riley Ballard, Severna Park, freshman

The freshman, a SPY club swimmer, stepped up for gold for the Class 4A/3A East Region champions in the 500-yard freestyle (5:45.75).

Marley Camm, Broadneck, junior

The SPY club swimmer helped lead Broadneck to Class 4A/3A East regional bronze with triumphs in the 50-yard freestyle (25.59) and 100-yard freestyle (57.04).

Regan Carpenter, Crofton, freshman

The only four-time individual champion between county championships and region championships, the Annapolis Swim Club swimmer won the 200 individual medley with 2:11.98 and 2:12.15 times respectively, and the 100 backstroke with 1:00.38 and 1:00.76 times respectively.

Ashley Connor, Archbishop Spalding, junior

The Cavaliers junior, an Annapolis Swim Club swimmer, captured silver at the IAAM A Conference championships with the county-best time of 58.06 in the 100 backstroke.

Ella Deitch, Broadneck, senior

In her final season, the Naval Academy Aquatic Club swimmer helped the Bruins “three-peat” at the county championships with victories in the 200 freestyle (1:59.51) and 500 freestyle (5:15.40).

Liz Forman, Chesapeake, junior

Before going on to place eighth at the 3A/2A/1A state championships, the Cougars swimmer took gold at the region championships in the 200 freestyle (2:07.76) and 500 freestyle (5:43.54).

Kenzie Getz, Severn, junior

The Naval Academy Aquatic Club lifer swept her individual events with a 24.88 time in the 50 freestyle — a repeat title from 2023 — and a 54.48 time in the 100 freestyle.

Rian Healy, Chesapeake, junior

Healy took home one win in the 50 freestyle (26.15) at the 3A/2A/1A South championships.

Fiona Kelley, Severna Park, junior

The junior took home a gold medal in the 100 butterfly (1:01.64) at the Class 4A/3A East regional championships for the victorious Falcons.

Hannah Oslislo, Broadneck, senior

The Bruins senior claimed the 100 breaststroke at the county championships (1:09.28) and Class 4A/3A East regional championships (1:09.27), before honoring her high school team and swimming to seventh place at states.

Syd Perry, Crofton freshman

The Annapolis Swim Clubber finished first in the 200 freestyle (2:08.78) for the silver medalist Crofton team at the Class 4A/3A East Region championships.

Aubrey Whalen, Broadneck freshman

A Naval Academy Aquatic Club swimmer, the freshman took home gold in the 100 butterfly at county championships (59.64).

Iris Whiteman, Northeast sophomore

Whiteman put Northeast on the top podium spot with a 1:16.55 finish in the 100 backstroke at the Class 3A/2A/1A South Region championship.

Mabel Zegowitz, Crofton sophomore

The Cardinal defended her titles in the 50 and 100 freestyles at county championships, with improved cuts in each — 24.34 and 52.62.

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