Walter Johnson Swimming and Diving: Celebrating Season Misplaced to COVID


By the contributors David Meisel and Becky Umhofer

On June 6, 2021, a new senior class will graduate from Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, Maryland. The seniors in this class lost their high school season they had been looking forward to for more than a decade. So we honor them here and give them the opportunity to reflect on their experiences swimming in high school.
Anyone reading this article knows what it takes to be a swimmer still in his senior year swimming. Early mornings, late nights, smelling of chlorine all day and an understanding that you are doing this to be with your team, to be a part of something bigger than you, a senior in high school too to represent his and your school at dual meetings, regional meetings, state meetings and, above all, metros!
Last year isn't about breaking the HS team's records, but rather enjoying your fourth year on this team with friends and younger teammates (who probably swim faster than your best times … that's how the sport works) than to look after future captains. Express team pride and continue team traditions.

From the coach:

Jamie Grimes – Head Coach – Walter Johnson Swimming and Diving (WJSD)
The swim and dive team was a great mix of athletes who have team spirit, are committed to excellence, and really like each other. Team functions enable children to get to know each other and become part of a team. Whether it is the team breakfast after the morning workout or the pasta dinner before the meetings, the children like to be in the company of each other. At the meetings, the athletes always support each other and that enables everyone to perform at their best. This year's senior class is no different. They were a great addition to the WJSD tradition. Even though they haven't reached their senior year, they have still left me with great memories and instilled in the lower classes the values ​​that the wildcats will continue to emphasize in the future.

Today we honor the class of 2021 from Walter Johnson High School:

  • Sophia Abels
  • Kayden Austin-Vaias
  • Henry Bagshaw
  • Chandler Dietrich
  • Quinn Harris
  • Jane Joncas
  • Tina Jovic
  • Alexandra Keefe
  • Noelle Krupinski
  • Yoav Lavy
  • Sam Meisel
  • Ava Powell
  • Luke Simmons
  • Sam Spasoff
  • Jane Umhofer
  • Jackson Young

From the captains:

Chandler Dietrich – WJ – Swimming Captain – Class of 2021
Unfortunately, Walter Johnson Swim & Dive along with many other clubs and sports were unable to participate in our traditional competitions according to the MCPS protocols over the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many swimmers in private clubs were able to train in their respective teams in the spring of 2021 and even attend Potomac Valley swim meetings. Fortunately, Coach Grimes and the WJ Swim Team Captains devised a plan for swimmers to keep in touch with the team. WJSD swimmers with a number of hosts were offered weekly Zoom meetings. From local swim coaches to successful MCPS alumni, athletes had a variety of opportunities to get valuable and motivating information during the season. Looking ahead, the reopening of the MCPS schools promises promising opportunities for a 2021-2022 regular season.

Jane Umhofer – WJ Swimming Captain & Jane Joncas – WJ Diving Captain – Class of 2021
Given that there wasn't a personal winter sports season for MCPS this year, many athletes, especially seniors at Walter Johnson Swim and Dive, had a lot more time to spare. The virtual schedule for this year was very different from the events of a normal high school swimming season. The team usually takes part in two exercises per week and meets weekly from late November to late February. That year the season was reduced to a few Zoom meetings, and many swimmers found other things to do with the time WJSD had previously taken. Our older swimmers watched more Netflix and of course slept more, but also: they joined clubs, focused on college apps, started Instagram businesses, started swimming year-round, lifted weights, did jobs / internships, and so much more! While we wished we were all together at the KSAC pool surrounded by our wild cats, we could find a silver lining during this pandemic.

Kayden Austin-Vaias – WJ Swimming Captain – Class of 2021
Over the years the WJSD team has had many wins and many meals! Jamie's birthday dinners were so fun that he brought his RMSC and WJ swimmers together. The breakfast on Tuesday morning was always delicious and the early wake-up time was absolutely worth it. The parents brought us bagels, sausages, fruit and the fans' favorite chocolate milk.
There were some great captains too. Grace Burgett was always so supportive, spirited, and taking the little newbies under her wing. In the huge crowd cheering for subways, you could always see them in their green and white striped overalls! Watching Maren Conze break the Metro record for 500 freestyle was amazing! She totally dominated and the whole team was on deck, jumping, yelling and cheering on her. Swimming and cheering on the subway was so exciting. Whether you swam or just came to cheer, we all left with voices gone and bodies exhausted.
This team is so close and I will always love my wild cats.

Henry Bagshaw – WJ Swimming Captain – Class of 2021
The highlight of the WJ swim and dive team was the food. It was a great way to bring us all together (out of the water). Almost every week during the season we have a special meal together. This includes the sub-lunch, the snowflake brunch and Jamie's birthday dinner. It's always a fun time to hang out with the team (in a dry environment). One of my best memories was when Timmy Ellett, James Collishaw, Sean Keller, and I broke the record of 200 free seasons in my sophomore year. It was probably the proudest moment of my entire high school swimming career. I will miss this great group of friends and teammates.

From the former wildcats:

Dear Senior Swimmer – by Kevin Mejia – class of 2013
This year is the most important season of your high school career. The last chance to make an impression on your colleagues inside and outside the pool. Fortunately, some of you have Jamie Grimes for WJSD and Anatomy, so there's no room for error. Make good notes in class because these study packages can help you get 206 bones in the human body in real life.
Embrace your friends, give each other disgusting cheers, and make your own unique mark in an incredible winning culture! Remember, champions are made at breakfast after a workout. Jamie also improved his hearing so gossip is at your own risk. Please always thank the parent volunteers and I hope we will all see you soon. GO Wildcats 🐾

Dearest Senior Swimmer – Sidney Drill – Class of 2011
I know this last year and a half has not been what you expected when you thought about making your mark in the water. Her path went from freestyle bests to long zoom calls with Grimes (at least for WJ students). Even so, it was a year to demonstrate your strong determination, creativity, and the indestructible bonds of family and friendship.
To steal a quote from this classic anime series: Hunter X Hunter:
“You should enjoy the little detours to the full. Because here you find things more important than what you want. "
The ridiculous spirit outfits, the voracious pasta dinners that scream hoarse at every bathing meeting. From experience, these memories and friends are the most important things you will take away from your years on the team.
Plus, if you have that one mom on the team who makes the MOST AMAZING potluck brownies, ask for the recipe too. In the future, you (and your friends) will thank you. GO Wildcats 🐾

Two of the seniors with a WJSD degree have committed to continuing their athletic careers:

  • Jane Umhofer: will attend and swim at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, IL.
  • Sam Meisel: will attend and swim at St. Mary & # 39; s College in Maryland in St. Mary & # 39; s County, MD.

Knowing this strong group of athletes, we are confident that others in the 2021 class will be swimming clubs or joining their colleges' swimming / diving team in time.

Celebrate the senior hatchback style!

Please join us Saturday 17th April (Rain date April 24th) for a drive-through poster signing ceremony. The seniors are parked in the back of the tailgate of the Kennedy Shriver Aquatic Center. Watch out for the balloons! Every senior has a poster and would love if you stop by and sign it for them. You can park your car in a different area of ​​the parking lot and walk through the area where the seniors are (all masked, of course).

12: 00-12: 30 WJSD in the second year
12: 30-1: 00 WJSD Juniors
1: 00-1: 30 family and special friends

With June 6 approaching each day, we at Reach For The Wall hope that when you see a class of swimmers or divers dating from 2021, wish them all the best, to keep them a memory of your experience all rolled into one Team and convey the great memories you had from those days.

The editors of Reach for the Wall encourage all DMV high schools to celebrate your team and recognize your class of 2021 seniors. Send an email to:, we'd love to share it with our readers!


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