Seton Swimming created this annual championship meet to bring together the Catholic schools in the northern half of Virginia each year for a celebration of our common values, and the meet gets more fun each year.   I love the spirit of this one, and it was on full display on Saturday, January 11th.

After a five (5) straight years of victories by the Bishop Ireton girls’ team, the Bishop O’Connell Girls took home the traveling trophy – the Holy Grail – for their 3rd straight year.  And after two (2) consecutive years for the Paul VI Boys, the Bishop O’Connell Boys claimed the other Holy Grail for the 3rd time in a row as well.  Congratulations to Bishop O’Connell, and especially to their Coach, Joe Smolinske, who does a really fine job with those kids.

Six (6) years ago, we added Meet Records and a Swimmer of the Meet award for the first time.  In business, we often say that you get what you measure.  Well, we started measuring Meet Records and not surprisingly, we broke a bunch – how about another ten (10) out of 24!

Congratulations to our Swimmers of the Meet: Paige Hall of Bishop O’Connell (2nd year in a row) and Michael Salvatori of Saint John Paul the Great.  Paige, a sophomore, took the gold medal three (3) times with top finishes in the 200 Free Relay, 50 Free, and 100 Back and a new meet record in 100 Backstroke (57.66).  Paige also earned a bronze medal in the 200 Medley Relay where her coach put her in the “B” Relay to claim both Gold and Bronze for O’Connell (very smart!).  And Michael is a senior who won two (2) individual gold medals and a two (2) relay bronze medals including new meet records in 200 IM (1:57.14) and 100 Backstroke (53.25).

I was very pleased that the Seton Girls took 5th place without our top female swimmer, and the Seton Boys were able to take 4th place.  That means that our boys were able to beat one of the large Diocesan schools – Bishop Ireton – and we were able to do it without a diving team which scored in this meet.

Here is the way the final scores looked, including diving:


Bishop O’Connell                     443

Paul VI                                       338

Saint John Paul the Great    207.5

Seton Swimming                  177.5

Benedictine College Prep      90

Bishop Ireton                           84



Bishop O’Connell                  487

Paul VI                                     419

Bishop Ireton                        166

Saint John Paul the Great   122

Seton Swimming                  133

Oakcrest                                   71

St. Gertrude’s                          14

You Gotta Take a Risk

I love having Kathleen O’Malley (SR) back on the team for her senior year.  On Saturday, she came up to me before the relay and said, “Coach, I’m worried about my relay start.  If I don’t do it right, it will be slower than if I just do a normal start.”

For a little background, at Seton we use a relay start that I learned from Olympic gold medalist Jeremy Linn who now coaches at NCAP.  We often see him on deck coaching the practice right before us with the kids that go :47 in 100 Back.  The start involves using a really big arm swing and essentially getting a running start from the back of the block.  It’s not easy to get the coordination down between your arms and your feet – even some of our top swimmers can’t do it quite right yet.

Kathleen is one of those swimmers who doesn’t quite have it right.  So I told her, “Kathleen, you need to take a risk.  I’d rather see you risk having a slow start than to not try it at all.”

And I meant it.  If we are ever going to learn to get out of our comfort zone, it means taking the risk that it doesn’t work out well.  It means that maybe you’ll be slower, or maybe you’ll lose a race you wanted to win, or maybe you’ll feel like you might look bad in front of your friends.  Yep, some of that might happen.  But there’s a bigger price to pay if you don’t occasionally risk those things.

Since we’ll never do anything meaningful in our life without stretching ourselves outside our comfort zone, learning to take a risk is absolutely essential to our development as Catholics and as people.  If it is worth doing, it is worth the risk.

When we were done chatting, Kathleen smiled and simply said, “Well, I’m glad I asked.”  I was glad she asked too.

Kathleen did the relay start.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty darn good.  And it made me very happy.  What was even better was that Kathleen learned to risk a bad outcome for the chance of something better.  I hope that lesson sticks with her, and the rest of you, for life.

Here is another example that is perhaps even more powerful: Never Say the Word Can’t.  Think of Jennifer (Moceanu) Bricker the next time you feel like you are facing some insurmountable obstacle.  Take the risk, and even if it doesn’t work out, you’ll be happier with yourself for putting it all on the line – and I’ll be happy for you too.

Some Great Swims That Made Me Say “Wow!”

We spend a great deal of time talking about our top swimmers, but we had some younger swimmers that really impressed me on Saturday.  Here are some of the swims where the other Coaches and I looked at each other and just said “Wow!”:

  • Jack Champney (8) really impressed me on Saturday. I made a mistake on his entries, and now I am SOOO glad that I did.  At the time, though, I’ll admit to being a little worried.  100 Fly and 100 Free are right next to each other in my swimming software, so when I looked down at my Meet Program for the swimmers in 100 Fly and saw Jack’s name, I realized that I must have clicked on the wrong event.  I immediately started looking for Jack to see if I could fix it, but Jack was nowhere to be found.  That’s because he was behind the blocks!  I’m sure Jack was nervous – after all, he’s probably never swum more than 25 yards of butterfly without stopping in his entire life.  Without coming to me to tell he me couldn’t do it (or what would have been more typical, without coming to an assistant coach to ask them to ask me), he just got behind the blocks had did his best.  His “best” did not win a medal or score any points, but his “best” was the highlight of the meet for me.  I was very proud of you Jack.  You did it!
  • Rose Waldron (7) is less than 5 feet tall I’d guess, but on her butterfly leg of a medley relay, she dove off the blocks in a perfect streamline and did an underwater body dolphin for almost 15 meters! For those of you new to swimming, you may have never noticed that there are colored rings on the lane lines at the 15-meter mark so the officials can make sure that no one gets an unfair advantage by using an underwater body dolphin longer than that.   I told her, “Rosie!  That was amazing.  You see that yellow ring?  It’s to keep people like you from beating everyone with your great underwaters!”
  • Patrick Hartung (FR) caused me to do a double take when I compared his seed time in the 500 Free to the time displayed for his lane. Could it be possible that he cut 2:33.89 from his 500 PR?  Just in case that wasn’t clear, he cut 2 minutes and 33.89 seconds!  Then he cut 14.35 seconds from his 100 Breast to go a time that would score in most of our DAC meets if he were a top 4 swimmer for Seton.  Wow, Patrick!
  • John McGrath (JR) is competing on the Seton Swim Team for the first time this season. In fact, he just transferred to Seton the week before the season started.  I don’t think John had ever swum competitively before, but you’d never know it the way he swam on Saturday.  His improvement so far this season has been remarkable.  The other coaches and I were watching John’s 200 Free when he split 1:03.12 to his feet at the 100-yard mark.  He ended up finishing with a 5.81 second PR.  He clearly gave everything he had.  And then he tried the 500 Free for the first time and went 6:25.75 – that’s a great time for a first attempt.  Even his backstroke leading off a medley relay looked better than I’ve ever seen it before.  Great work, John!
  • Max Wilson (7) is going to be a good one, it’s already clear. He’s not very big yet, but he seems to do all of the little things right already.  An example was his relay start in the 200 Free Relay.  It was perfect – exactly like what we’ve been teaching in practice.  Max also continues to improve in all four (4) strokes.  On Saturday, he cut another 1.65 seconds from his 100 Free and another .58 seconds from his 50 Free to go 1:11.53 and 31.27, respectively.  Those are excellent times for a 12-year old!
  • JJ Brox (FR) is another swimmer who is on the Seton team for the first time, and it sure is fun to watch him continue to improve. It was particularly fun to watch his 100 Breaststroke on Saturday.  He was in a very tight race, coming from behind, but in the last 10 yards, he managed to pull ahead and overtake his opponent with a .46 second PR.  It was a great finish for JJ!
  • Ava Hudson (8) was on a roll Saturday in her first two events. In the 50 Back leading off a medley relay, she cut 2.04 seconds to go 35.55.  That’s a very fast time for an 8th grader, and it was fast enough that I needed to add her to my tracking spreadsheet for relay splits.  Then, in the 200 Free, she dropped a whopping 24.26 even though she was feeling a little sick.  Wow!  I’m excited to see what she can do with the 500 Free the next time she gets a chance to try it.
  • Chris Lynch (8) somehow managed to drop 83.06 seconds – nearly a minute and a half – in the 500 Free. Wow!  Chris also took a swing at the 200 IM for the first time ever and swam an excellent time for an 8th grader at just over 3:00.  Great work, Chris!
  • Mary O’Malley (SO) had one heck of a meet – so much so that I had to add her to my split tracking sheet for State relays. I was just mixing kids up in the exhibition medley relay so they all get a chance to swim every stroke, and whammo, Mary popped a 7.15 second PR in 50 Back to jump into the mix for our State relays!  She also split almost 2 seconds faster in 100 Free on a 400 Free Relay to jump into the mix for that State relay also.  That was quite a day’s work for Mary.

Coach John Halisky Has Been a Great Addition

At the beginning of the season, I put out a call for any parent interested in learning to become an Assistant Coach.  John Halisky answered the call, and I am so glad that he did.

Like all of the coaches on the Seton team, John is a volunteer.  And like most of the coaches on the Seton team, John has a day job and a family.  In John’s case, after graduation from Christendom, he found his way into the insurance industry.  Today, he’s the VP of Sales and Marketing for an insurance intermediary.  John is also the father of five (5) kids, including Liam who is on the Seton team.

John doesn’t have any prior experience coaching swimming, but as you can see from the PRs I report in these blogs, he’s already become a highly effective coach.

He is an athlete himself, which is not required, but it certainly helps.  He was a pitcher in college and competed in rugby at the high school level.  He is a former tennis instructor, and he enjoys hiking, swimming, and weight-lifting.

I know his time on the pool deck has been highly beneficial for the kids in his lanes, but I also hope that it will be beneficial for him personally.  John is currently training for his first triathlon, and now he knows how to get his stroke count down.  That is vital knowledge to effectively compete in any open water distance swimming.

John is a great example of the way things work at Seton.  As Seton parents, we don’t expect to just pay tuition and have someone else make Seton a better place.  We expect to personally do our part to make Seton a better place.

Thank you, John, for playing such a big part in making Seton a better place for all of our kids.  We are all grateful for your time and talents – and the joy you bring to all of us on the pool deck.

Top 12 Individual Finishers

We have a hard-working team without a core group of long-time USA Swimmers like the big Diocesan schools, but that didn’t stop us from getting a number of top 12 finishes that scored at this very fast meet.  It’s very cool to see the number of young swimmers who were significant scorers.  The future looks to be in pretty good hands:


  • Mary Pennefather (FR) was our the highest scoring individual female with a 2nd place in 50 Free and a 10th place in 100 Breaststroke. A 2nd place in 50 Free in a meet this fast is quite an accomplishment!
  • Caroline Griffin (SR) was one of our highest individual scorers with her 5th place finish in 100 Back and her 10th place finish in 200 IM.
  • Emily Flynn (SO) scored 9 points individually with her 8th place finish in 100 Back and her 9th place finish in 100 Fly. Both were PRs, the former by 3.74 seconds and the later by .17 seconds.  That’s a very significant drop for Emily in 100 Backstroke.
  • Anne Konstanty (SR) took 8th place in the 500 with a very solid 6:10.32. She also cut .09 seconds from her 200 IM PR.
  • Isabelle Luevano (SO) found her big kick at least a few times during the her 100 Fly and cut 2.40 seconds as a result. That swim was good enough to score in 11th  She also scored in 12th place in 200 Free.
  • Lily Byers (SO) placed 11th in 500 Free with a 1.81 second PR. She’s now been under 7:00 multiple times, and that should be fairly competitive at DAC Champs.  Lily also had a huge 2.30 second drop in 100 Free and a 1.90 second drop in 100 Fly.  I always see Lily working hard in practice, so it is great to see it paying off for her.
  • Mary Clare Waldron (SO) has improved so much this season in Breaststroke that she scored in 12th place on Saturday.


  • Drew Dalrymple (SR) faced off against some of the fastest kids in the State in 50 and 100 Free and held his own. He placed 6th in 50 Free and 7th in 100 Free with .19 second and .42 second PRs, respectively.  Those finishes made him the highest individual male scorer on our team.
  • Joe Wilson (FR) was our 2nd highest scoring boy – pretty good considering that he’s only a Freshman. He placed 6th in 100 Fly and 8th in 500 Free with a 4.85 second PR.
  • Nathan Luevano (FR) was the 3rd highest scoring boy on our team Saturday – like Joe, Nathan is also only a Freshman – very cool. He took 7th in 500 Free and 8th in 100 Breaststroke.
  • Shane Koehr (SR) was a beast on Saturday. He finished 7th in 100 Back and 10th in 200 IM after a 5.13 second PR.  Those were great swims, but his most impressive swim was his 23.59 split in the 200 Free Relay.  That gave him the fastest 50 Free split on the team so far this season.  Shane also had an all-time best 50 Back split leading off the medley relay.  His 27.43 beat his previous PR set at States last season.
  • Jacob Alsup (SR) took 9th in 200 Free and 12th in a very fast event of 50 Free. He also swam a .65 second PR in 100 Free leading off our 400 Free Relay.  His 56.11 jumped up to the 3rd fastest 100 Freestyle on the team so far this season.
  • Christian Ceol (SR) placed 9th in 100 Free with a 57.00. That was 1.19 seconds faster than he’s ever gone and has him within .24 seconds of being in the top-4 on the team.  Christian also placed 12th in 200 IM after a .15 second PR.
  • Jeremy Kleb (SR) rocked the 500 Free with a 14.02 second PR to take 9th
  • Jerry Dalrymple (JR) placed 10th in 50 Free and 11th in 100 Fly.
  • John McGrath (JR) jumped up to 10th place in the 200 Free with the swim I highlighted above.
  • Joey Arnold (SR) scored in 12th place in 200 Free. He also broke 1:00 in 100 Free for the first time after a .71 second PR.
  • Joey Dealey (FR) showed why the 500 Free can be a great event to swim by scoring in 12th He later swam a .54 second PR in 100 Breaststroke.
  • Evan Wilson (JR) is still coming off an illness, but that didn’t stop him from taking 12th place in 100 Backstroke.
  • JJ Brox (FR) took 12th in 100 Breaststroke with a .46 second PR 1:17.54. JJ has shown strong improvement in that event this season.

First Time Swims

I always enjoy watching a swimmer try an event for the first time.   The following swimmers tried an event for the first time this past weekend:

  • Ryan Beltran (8) – 200 IM
  • Michael Brox (7) – 500 Free
  • Jack Champney (8) – 100 Fly
  • Chris Lynch (8) – 200 IM
  • John McGrath (JR) – 500 Free
  • Lucy Pennefather (7) – 200 IM
  • Mary Clare Waldron (SO) – 200 IM

Congratulations to all of these swimmers for testing the boundaries of what they believe they can do.

Lots of Personal Record Swims that Caught My Attention

As the meet was progressing, the other coaches and I were tracking PR after PR on the Meet Mobile application that Mr. Dealey set up for us.  I just love watching kids look up at the scoreboard and get a big smile on their face.

We had 68 PRs on Saturday – that’s about one PR per swimmer. As you read through these highlights from PRs not yet mentioned, I hope you notice how much our younger swimmers are improving:

  • Sophia Zadnik (SO) broke 3:00 for the first time in 200 IM after a big 5.84 second PR. Her butterfly never looked better in the IM, so it was no surprise to me when she also had a PR in 100 Fly by 1.02 seconds.
  • Madelyn Zadnik (8) dropped 1.61 seconds in 100 Breaststroke and .37 seconds in 100 Free
  • Cate Waldron (8) beat her previous best time in 100 Breaststroke by 3.04 seconds.
  • Elena Morano (SR) continues to cut time in huge chunks. How about a 5.11 second PR in 100 Free and a 1.21 second PR in 50 Free?  That was the first time she’s broken :40 in 50 Free in her life!
  • Michael McGrath (8) had a massive drop in 100 Breaststroke, cutting 21.95 seconds from his previous best. He also cut another 1.75 seconds from his 100 Free PR.
  • Peter Konstanty (8) rocked his 200 IM with a 1.98 second PR. He also cut a huge 3.29 seconds from his 100 Free PR.
  • Ceili Koehr (SO) found that elusive PR in 200 Free on Saturday, beating her previous best by 3.94 seconds. That longer reach seemed to have worked!
  • Seth Kellogg (7) dropped another .47 seconds in 50 Free.
  • David Hudson (8) cut nearly a second (.96 seconds to be exact) from his 100 Back PR.
  • Virginia Hartung (JR) lowered her 100 Free PR by a whopping 3.66 seconds!
  • Jo Hartung (8) swam 50 Free .41 seconds faster than ever before.
  • Liam Halisky (7) had a nice swim in 100 Free, beating his previous best by .73 seconds.
  • Maggie Gibbons (8) smiled her way to a .13 second PR in 50 Free, even with an injured ankle. That Irish Dance is really dangerous 😉
  • Clare Flynn (8) has come a long way in learning to swim breaststroke this year, and it showed with her 22.40 second PR. She also cut 1.46 seconds from her 50 Free PR.
  • Mick Fioramonti (8) is going to be a good one. How about his huge 9.42 second drop in 100 Fly and his big 3.88 second drop in 100 Backstroke?
  • Justin Fioramonti (SR) continues fighting to improve. His 50 Free dropped another .02 seconds.  We’re working to grab more water and take better advantage of his significant upper body strength.  There’s another significant drop for you, Justin!
  • Haley Fifield (7) continues to get better. On Saturday, she dropped yet another 3.51 seconds in 100 Free.
  • Theresa Dwane (SR) cut another .61 seconds in 50 Free in spite of the pain she’s feeling in her shoulder.
  • Joseph Dwane (8) is figuring out how to swim breaststroke and it showed with his 19.24 second PR. He also cut another 3.16 seconds from his 50 Free PR.
  • Elizabeth Dwane (SO) had two nice PRs: In 100 Free, she cut 1.89 seconds and in 100 Breaststroke, she cut .86 seconds.
  • Kyle Da Re (JR) had a great improvement in 100 Free, lowering his PR by 14.84 seconds.
  • Lauren Curley (SR) looked better than ever in 100 Backstroke, beating her previous best time by another 12.81 seconds.
  • Jack Champney (8), after his great swim in 100 Butterfly, also cut 2.37 seconds in 100 Breaststroke.
  • Emma Catabui (SO) had two strong Personal Records. I was so pleased to see her lower her 100 Breaststroke PR by 9.66 seconds and her 100 Free PR by 1.17 seconds.  Based on her work in practice with Coach Dalrymple, I’ll bet she can lower that Breaststroke PR again!
  • Michael Brox (7) did a nice job in 100 Breaststroke, dropping another 1.57 seconds.
  • Elodie Brox (7) had a big drop in 50 Free, cutting 1.58 seconds from her previous best.
  • Lucia Bingham (7) is back in the water getting great results. How about her 2.51 second PR in 100 Free, and her 1.94 second PR in 100 Back?
  • Julia Atkinson (8) hit another PR in 50 Free, this time by .08 seconds.
  • Chris Arnold (7) dropped another .11 seconds in 100 Free.
  • Katie Albin (SR) is coming off a long illness, but that didn’t stop her from beating her 50 Free PR by .07 seconds.

State and National Catholic Qualifiers

We have two championship meets where, in order to be eligible to participate, you must meet a qualifying time standard during the current season.

The VISAA State Championship is February 14-15, 2020 at the Christiansburg Aquatic Center near Virginia Tech.  It should be a great time for everyone eligible to participate.

We have both “A” and “B” Relays for both boys and girls qualified for all three (3) relay events.  Check out my separate blog on the topic to see everyone who has qualified.

I did not list names for these relays because it is impossible to tell who will actually swim.  You are eligible for me to enter you on a relay at States if you have swum on that relay during the season when it hit the cut, but that doesn’t mean I will be able to actually enter you to swim.  We go to States to try to bring home a State Championship or State Runner-up.  If I feel like we have a legitimate shot at one of those titles, it would not be unusual for me to use some of our top swimmers in 3 relays and only one individual event because relays score so many points.  Time – and your times – will clarify this situation for all of us.

The National Catholic High School Championship is at Loyola University in Baltimore on January 18th-19th with prelims in the morning on January 18th and finals on Sunday, January 19th.  We also have a meet that Saturday afternoon back at Freedom, so I will be traveling back and forth for that.

Congratulations on the following swimmers who have qualified for Seton’s National Catholic Team:

  • Mairead Geiran
  • Caroline Griffin 
  • Anne Konstanty 
  • Isabelle Luevano 
  • Mary Pennefather 
  • Emily Flynn
  • Shane Koehr 
  • Drew Dalrymple 
  • Christian Ceol 

Planning for the Rest of the Season

  • The end of the season is fast approaching for probably half the team with our JV Invitational on January 25th at the Fitch WARF in Warrenton.
    • The JV Invitational has a two-fold purpose:
      • To allow all swimmers grades 6 through 9 to shine against kids their own age – regardless of their level of ability. So, if you are freshman or below, please plan on coming to compete, even if you are also on the Varsity Team.
      • To provide a great season-ending experience for members of our team who will not be swimming in the post-season.
    • Here’s how the process will work in determining who will swim past January 25th:
      • For the final three (3) post-season meets, we are not allowed any exhibition swimmers. That means that I am limited to four (4) scoring swimmers per event and two (2) scoring relays.
      • I will publish the meet entries for the VISAA Division II Invitational Championship sometime after our January 18th meet, and the swimmers in that meet will be designated as “Varsity”.
      • Only the Varsity team needs to practice past January 23rd.
    • There’s no other meet on the weekend of January 25th so many of our Varsity swimmers will have the weekend off.
      • But parent volunteers, we are the host of this annual state-wide invitational, so I hope you are open to helping out, even if you don’t have a kid in the meet. We really need you.
    • Our last regular season meet is next Saturday, January 18th at the Freedom Center.
      • Please plan to be on deck, ready to stretch before 12:39 p.m.
      • Our warm-up starts at 1:00 p.m., the officials meeting is at 1:20 p.m., the timers meeting is at 1:40 p.m. and the National Anthem will be at 2:08 p.m.

It’s been a great season for Seton so far.  Let’s finish strong.

See you at practice,

Coach Jim Koehr

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