As a snowstorm and icy roads affected much of the preparation leading up to Saturday night's inaugural Eastern Panhandle Athletic Conference Championships, Eastern Panhandle swimmers chugged right along through the water.
At least, that was the comparison Jefferson coach Glenn Edwards made.
"We were like little tugboats," Edwards said. "We didn't necessarily swim super times, but our tugboats worked together to bring home the big boat.
"It's a little different from the Eastern Panhandle Championships now that we are in a league, but it does have a lot of meaning to be the first ones to win it for the girls and the boys."
The Cougars swept both of the EPAC Championship meets, with Edwards being named the girls' coach of the year and Washington coach Brian Bauer being named the boys' coach of the year.
In both championships, the Cougars relied on a freshman to be a spark plug for them.
In the girls meet, it took the endurance of Kaelyn Gardner and the speed of Nick Mazaleski in the boys meet to push the Cougars ahead.
Gardner swam the 500-yard freestyle, the anchor leg of the 200 frees relay and the 100 backstroke in succession. She won the first two events and finished second in the 100 back Washington's Cameron Payne, before coming away with a second relay victory in the 400 freestyle relay as the anchor.
"We knew that Musselman and Washington had strong teams, and we needed someone at the anchor to help get us points if we needed it," Edwards said. "Kaelyn swam a great 500, and our final two relays moved very well."
The strong performance from Gardner gave the Cougars a first-place finish with 185 points. Washington and Musselman battled for second place, with the Patriots finising with 104 points, to Musselman's 102. Hedgesville finished fourth with 85 points, and Martinsburg (30 points) and Spring Mills(11) rounded things out.
In addition to Gardner's victories, Jefferson picked up wins from Mia Holland in the 200 free with a 2:17.55, Destiny Hoffman in the 200 individual medley with a 2:41.82 and Kaley Hoffman in the 100 butterfly with a 1:14.01.
Martinsburg picked up a victory in the 50 free from Sara DeJarnett, and Hedgesville picked up wins in the 100 free and 100 breaststroke from Sabrina Buhagair. Musselman kicked off the meet with a victory in the 200 medley relay.
For the boys, Jefferson used the freestyle stroke to their advantage as part of a first-place finish with 197.50 points. Washington was second with 119 points, and Musselman took third with 71.50 points. Martinsburg finished fourth with 53 points, and Hedgesville and Spring Mills tallied 40 and 29 points, respectively.
The Cougars won the freestyle relays, and Nick Mazaleski won the 50 and 100 free events. Bryan Wiercioch added the 200 and 500 free events to sweep the events involving the stroke.
Shawn Gee and Derek Carson led the way individually for Washington.
Gee won the 100 fly and 100 back events, and Carson added wins in the 100 breast and 200 IM events. The Patriots also picked up a win in the 200 medley relay.