Last weekend, I was able to take a small team of Seton’s top female swimmers up to Loyola University of Maryland for the 2018 National Catholic High School Championship.  The meet featured all of the top teams from Catholic schools up across the mid-Atlantic region with teams coming from as far away as Cleveland, OH.

Congratulations to the members of this year’s National Catholic team:

  • Anna Kenna (SR)
  • Julia Rowzie (SR)
  • Mary Heim (JR)
  • Caroline Griffin (SO)
  • Katharine Rowzie (SO)
  • Mary Pennefather (8)
  • Emily Flynn (8)
  • Isabelle Luevano (8)

We all gathered at a beautiful house in the Federal Hill area of Baltimore for a delicious team dinner prepared by Mrs. Kenna and Mrs. Griffin.  After a great breakfast prepared by the Mrs. Griffin and the Saturday morning Preliminary session for the Girls, the girls got to relax at the house while I headed back to Manassas for our meet at Central Park.

When I got back to the house on Saturday night, I found a tight group of girls laughing after a great afternoon together – and I also found a delicious prepared by Mrs. Heim with loads of great seafood provided by Mr. Kenna.  It was wonderful for me to relax with these great families.

On Sunday morning, the girls had another great breakfast, this time prepared by the Mrs. Luevano, and we headed over to the pool for the Finals that was to begin at Noon.

Seton has been going to National Catholics since 2005 when the meet was a Villanova University.  I was just looking back at some old results – boy was that fun!  I have such great memories of the Seton gold medalists in particular, including Kevin Koehr, Nevin Cook, Jameson Hill and Alex Doonis.  I especially remember when Jameson Hill broke a 30 year meet record set by the Montreal Olympian Buddy Hackett when he was in high school.  Jamo’s record still stands today.

So you can imagine how much fun it was for me to relive those great moments all over again in the person of Anna Kenna.

Anna Kenna Breaks National Catholic Meet Record – Again!

In January 2015, Anna Kenna was a freshman with very little experience swimming at a high level.  All of the top girls at National Catholics had seen each other at the biggest USA meets, and when Anna went 1:00.06 in prelims, I don’t think she raised many eyebrows.  After all, she was just a high school swimmer.

When Anna came back in the 2015 Finals to go :58.69 and take the gold medal, I remember overhearing girls and their parents from Bishop O’Connell on the pool concourse asking, “Who is that Anna Kenna?”

So two years later (the 2016 meet was snowed out), at the 2017 meet, most of the top girls were not surprised to Anna come into the meet seeded 4th with that same :58.69.   They definitely knew who she was, even though this was her first year of serious training with a USA Swimming team.  The very top seed was a new girl from Magnificat High School outside of Cleveland, OH.  After Anna beat her in prelims by only .15 seconds to take the top seed in the Finals, Anna dropped a total of 1.53 seconds to go 57.00 and win the event for the 2nd time – this time with her first National Catholic High School Championship Meet Record.

Fast forward to this year’s 2018 championship, and it was déjà vu all over again.  This year the top seed was once again from a Cleveland school, Cleveland Saint Joseph Academy, and her seed time was a very fast 56.13.  Was that her best “shaved and tapered” time or could she do that “in season”?  We were about to see.

In the Preliminaries, meets are typically circle seeded meaning that the top 3 seeds are in the fast lane for the final three heats.  That meant that Anna, as the 2nd seed, was in the preliminary heat right before the top seed from Ohio.

In her preliminary heat, Anna went out in 27.57, a full 1.01 seconds faster than her preliminary split from the year before.  Her underwater off of her first turn was absolutely amazing.  When I saw that split at the 50, I knew it was going to be a fast time, and I was right.  Anna came back in 29.32 to set a new Meet Record (and Team Record) of 56.89 and qualify as the top seed in the next day’s Final.   Anna’s Ohio competition cruised into the Finals seeded 6th with a 1:00.59.

After Coach Lowell found some historical meets for her on Meet Mobile, we knew the Ohio girl had a habit of cruising in Prelims just to get into the Top 8, waiting until Finals to actually race.

After a relaxing Saturday afternoon and evening at the rental house, Anna seemed relaxed when we got to the pool on Sunday late morning.  Anna had the Final of 50 Free first, and that got her ire up after a 5th place finish.  Even though she swam a high school PR :24.45, her fastest unrested time, you could see she was not pleased.

But I secretly was very pleased, because the exact same thing happened last year.  In 2017, she was unhappy with her PR 50 Free time before she hit the water for backstroke – and then she crushed it.  It was like Ground Hog Day – at least that was my hope.

In the Finals, Anna was in Lane 4, right in the center, and the Ohio girl was out of Anna’s sight way out in Lane 7.  It quickly became obvious that both girls came to play.  When they surfaced past 10 meters off the start, Anna had a very slight lead which she kept to the first wall.   Then just like in Prelims, her powerful underwater off the first turn was amazing and got her a bit more of a lead.

When she flipped, I looked up at the Board and saw an incredible 27.28 split!  Her PR for 50 Back is :27.03 and she just went :27.28 to her feet after a turn!  I knew it was going to be a great time – but could she hold on after such a fast start?

Yes she could.  In fact, she extended her lead even more on the second and then the third wall and reached hard for the Gold medal – again!  I looked up at the board and was so pumped by what I saw – :56.83!  Her 2nd Meet Record of the weekend, and her 3rd consecutive National Catholic High School Championship.

Check out her Prelim swim here, and check out her Finals swim here.

Let’s put that time in perspective a few ways:

  • This meet has been held for more than 70 years and that is the fastest 100 Backstroke ever swum at it
  • Except for a break from Friday practice, Anna was completely unrested. In fact, she is just coming off the most brutal part of the training cycle for swimmers at her level and she was still able to swim a personal record time.
  • The 2017 NISCA All-America Consideration time for Girls 100 Back is :56.30. When Anna is rested a bit more for States, that now appears completely within range for her.  A NISCA All-America is someone who has swum one of the 100 fastest times in high school meet across the US for the year.  Seton has never had a female All-America.

Anna Kenna is a very special athlete who not only has the ability to excel in her own right, but she can bring up the other swimmers around her.  She brought me a lot of joy this past weekend – I can’t wait to see how far she goes in the future with the great coaching that she will get from Coach Crispino at William & Mary.

Let’s Not Forget the Other Great Swims!

Anna wasn’t the only one who swam well.  We had two other swims in the Finals and several other great swims in the preliminaries:

  • Our Girls 200 Medley Relay of Caroline Griffin, Mary Heim, Anna Kenna and Julia Rowzie qualified for the Consolation Finals in 15th Even though Caroline was really sick, she powered through to lead-off the relay with a backstroke split of 30.82 in Prelims and then 30.81 in the Finals, just .35 seconds behind her PR.  Mary Heim split a PR split 35.34 in 50 Breaststroke, Anna split an amazing 25.26 in 50 Butterfly (whoa!), and then Julia rocked a 27.92 anchor 50 Free split, breaking :28 for her first time ever.  Unfortunately, their relay got DQ’d in the Finals for an early take-off, but I wasn’t unhappy.  I like it when the girls are aggressive.
  • Our Girls 200 Free Relay of Mary Pennefather (8), Emily Flynn (8), Katharine Rowzie (SO) and Isabelle Luevano (8) took 14th place with some very strong splits. The most impressive split was Isabelle’s 27.66 – prior to that, she had never been faster than a 28.28.
  • Several of the girls did very well in the 50 Free, setting new Personal Records, including Emily Flynn (8) by 1.29 seconds (wow!), Katharine Rowzie (SO) by .49 seconds, Isabelle Luevano (8) by .48 seconds and Mary Pennefather (8) by .16 seconds
  • Emily Flynn (8) just seemed to be on fire every time she hit the water. Not only did she have those excellent relay splits and that huge PR in 50 Free, she also cut 1.04 seconds from her 100 Fly PR.  At the end of the meet, I had two old-school Seton National Catholic Team swim caps from probably 10 years ago.  Because she had such a great meet, I gave one of them to Emily.
  • Mary Heim (JR) broke that elusive 1:20 barrier in 100 Breaststroke with a 1.03 second PR to go 1:19.51!
  • Caroline Griffin’s (SO) 100 Backstroke was excellence considering how sick she was. She was within .62 seconds of her PR in spite of that.

The Fun Should Continue for the Next Several Years

I’ve been watching this crop of young swimmers that we have on the Seton team, and I simply cannot wait to bring a bunch of them to Baltimore on the third weekend in January for the next several years.

Who’s going to shine in the future?  I’m excited to see the answer to that question.

Coach Jim Koehr

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