On Saturday morning, we continued our annual tradition of loading up two coach buses and road-tripping to a pool far, far away for a meet against some top Division I competition.  The meet was a lot of fun and we had some very fast swimming, particularly in the strokes that has received so much recent attention in practice, Butterfly and Breaststroke.

This year, we visited Fork Union Military Academy, an all-boys perennial VISAA Division I State Champion who invited us along with another VISAA team and three of Central Virginia’s top public school teams.

We all owe a big thank you to Mrs. Carole Pechie for making the arrangements to rent the buses and to Coach Kimberly Dalrymple for making the dinner arrangements and taking charge of things during the actual trip.  They both did a really great job!   We are definitely going back to that Country Cookin’ Restaurant in Culpeper – they were absolutely super!

Thank you also to Coach Jerry Zadnik, Coach Kevin Koehr, and Coach Paul Pechie for the help they gave Coach Dalrymple and me during the entire trip.  Kevin Koehr, a former Seton All-America and former NCAA Division I swimmer at Virginia Tech is home for short time as he transition to his next career after serving as an Army officer in Ft. Drum and Afghanistan.  Mrs. Koehr and I are so happy to have him home for a while and we should all be happy to have someone of his experience on the pool deck with us!

Given the very high level of competition, particularly from FUMA and Albemarle County High School, I was very pleased with how well we competed at that level.  Here’s the way the meet scores turned out:


  1. Albemarle County High School                                        629
  2. Seton School                                                                      287
  3. Fluvanna County High School                                                287
  4. Orange County High School                         192
  5. The Covenant School                         153
  6. Louisa County High School   84
  7. Holy Family Academy   18


  1. Albemarle County High School                         602
  2. Fork Union Military Academy                         410
  3. Seton School                                                                      324
  4. Fluvanna County High School                                                128
  5. Orange County High School                         113
  6. Louisa County High School   93
  7. The Covenant School   36

Boyz to Men, Girlz to Women

“Keep Calm and Carry On”

  • 1939 British Motivational Poster

Adversity is the mother and father of Courage.

Adversity comes in many forms.   On the afternoon of September 7, 1940, nearly 350 German Luftwaffe bombers, escorted by over 600 fighters, filled the skies over London dropping hundreds of bombs on and around the docks of East London.  In that first raid of what became known as “the Blitz”, 450 people died and 1,300 were seriously injured – but tens thousands who were very close to the bombs survived.

A funny thing happened with those tens of thousands of people for which Nazi leaders failed to plan.  Rather than cowering in fear of the next raid, when those thousands of Londoners realized that they had actually survived the raid, they gained a little more courage, not less.

As the raids continued through the fall and winter, gradually tailing off by April 1941, there were more than one million London houses destroyed or damaged and more than 40,000 civilians killed – almost half of them in London.  But there were also millions who had survived – and those millions knew something that the Nazis didn’t.

Those millions realized that there was one fear worse than being afraid of dying – it was fear of being afraid.  Once they realized that they did not have to be afraid, it gave them courage – a courage that allowed them to literally save western civilization by holding on until a reluctant United States of America finally joined the war a year later.

Fortunately, few of us will ever face the adversity that the people of London faced in the fall of 1940, but we will all face some adversity in our lives – it could be something really serious, or it could be as simple as rejection by our peers or even just the 100 Butterfly.  And when we have the courage not to shrink from that adversity, we get a little stronger – we gain even more courage for the next time.

The development of that courage is one essence of what it means to go from a boy to a man or a girl to a woman:  Have you built in yourself the courage to put your own fears aside for the good of another?

At our meet down at Fork Union, I saw some very good swimming – but I also saw several examples of this kind of courage.  Let me highlight two:

Marcie Van de Voorde

Marcie an 8th grader who is about 5’ 2” tall I’d guess.  Marcie is not the most naturally gifted athlete on the team to be sure, but Marcie has something in abundance that all great athletes have – Marcie has heart.

I’ve been watching Marcie in practice as we’ve all been learning to swim butterfly, and I thought I might give her a crack at swimming the 100 Fly at FUMA.  As you expect, Marcie had more than a few apprehensions – many people on our team who were entered into the 100 Butterfly that day did, but when Marcie and I talked about it, I just said what I always say:  “Just do the best you can today, whatever that is”.

With an apprehensive look on her face, she went to the blocks in her blue team shirt and shorts, ready to face whatever was to come.  As she fought through the first 50 meters, I must admit thinking to myself, “uh-oh, I shouldn’t have done that to her”, but I continued to watch.  As more and more of our swimmers, and even swimmers on the other teams, began to cheer, Marcie struggled more with each stroke to get her arms out of the water – but she kept struggling.  Her last 50 meters took 2 minutes and 14 seconds – and she ultimately got disqualified for an underwater recovery.

But I saw a funny thing when Marcie was getting ready to get out of the water – she was smiling.  Among the biggest fears that a young girl must have in life are the fear of pain and the fear of public humiliation.  Marcie had just faced both – and won.  It was like a bomb had hit her neighborhood and she had survived – she had learned that her biggest fear should not have been the bomb, it should have been the fear.  Marcie had developed just a little more courage than she had the day before – and that’s why she was smiling.

And I was smiling too.

Claire Kenna

Before the season, I sat down with all of the Captains and some of the parents on our Seton Swimming Board, and we discussed what we could do to make this year’s team more “Warm, Welcoming and Fun”.  We came up with great ideas: a pre-season bon fire at my house, playing the name game at the first practice, our own movie premier at a theater rented out just for us (Jan 19th), and a AirBnB house for our State team.  What we wanted to create was a team environment where people were comfortable hanging out with people they didn’t normally see during the school day – what we wanted was for kids to get out of their limited circle of friends and broaden that circle to almost everyone on the team.  Fortunately, the thinking on how to accomplish that did not end with meetings arranged and led by me – one of our captains kept on thinking.

Last week before practice, Claire Kenna approached me with an idea to use the bus trip as an opportunity to pair up people who would not normally sit together and have them do an exercise where they could get to know each other better.  I immediately loved the idea, but I also recognized that there was a real a risk that Claire was taking – especially since I was not going to be on the bus to back her up (I had to come to the meet directly from business meetings in North Carolina and Richmond).

With strong encouragement from me though, Claire worked to create seating assignments, discussion questions and goal sheets.  I wasn’t there, but I am quite sure that it was hard for Claire to get up on that bus and start telling people that they were not going to sit with their friends – that they were going to make a new friend.  I know that she experienced some push-back (some of which disappointed me for sure), but Claire pushed on.  Claire showed a courage that few kids her age have – she was willing to put herself “in the arena”, and both our team and Claire herself are better off for her effort.

I was so proud of Claire Kenna for making the effort – on her own initiative – to make our team more “Warm, Welcoming and Fun”.  She showed real leadership here.  Great job Claire!

Another 43 Personal Records!

This week’s emphasis was butterfly and breaststroke after two weeks of heavy work on technique in practice.  It was very gratifying to see so many long underwater glides with each stroke of breaststroke and so many “light hands” on the front of butterfly.  I could tell that we still have a ways to go, but the results are indicative of some pretty significant progress.

Here are the Personal Records that struck me as the most dramatic.  The times shown in the results are the times for 50 meters (FUMA’s pool is Short-Course Meters), and the improvement is measured from a computer conversion of a swimmer’s best Short-Course Yards time to the equivalent time for Meters:

  • Julia Rowzie has really leaped out of her shell this year, and she is really starting to make her mark in the pool. On Saturday, she had four (4) PRs!  She beat her 100 Free PR by 12.87 seconds, her 50 Back PR by 2.15 seconds, and her 50 Free PR by 1.67 seconds.  Then she beat her 50 Free PR again leading off the 200 Free relay.  The State Cut for 100 meters Free is 1:07.32 and on Saturday, Julia went 1:07.38!  Great job Julia – I am so glad you are only a sophomore!
  • Martin Quinan is also only a sophomore, but I’m seeing some really great things from him this season too. On Saturday, he beat his 400 meter free PR (converted from 500 yards) by 20.52 seconds and hung with a huge guy seeded 42 seconds ahead of him.  He also beat his 200 IM PR by 16.24 seconds.  I am so pleased to see that Martin is becoming the four (4) stroke swimmer for which everyone on the team should strive.  His breaststroke has gotten particularly good – it’s pretty much the model of what we are trying to teach.
  • Vivian Zadnik had a big meet for sure, dropping 7.15 seconds from her 100 Back PR and 2.96 seconds from her 200 IM PR.
  • Dominic Wittlinger also stepped up his performance this past weekend with a 5.02 second PR in 200 IM and a 2.02 second PR in 50 Back leading off a medley relay. The first 50 Fly in his 200 IM looked better than I’ve ever seen from Dominic.  The kid is hungry to get better so Coach Lowell is starting to feed him.
  • Leo Santschi is a senior who is swimming for the first time. What a great kid!  I absolutely love having him (and his senior buddy, Anthony Spinosa, on the team).  Leo seems hungry to get better, so I was really pleased when I watched him beat his 100 Free PR by another 3.43 seconds.
  • Therese Pechie has vastly improved her freestyle over the past couple of weeks, particularly her hand entry – and the results showed in the 200 Free where she beat her PR by 15.75 seconds.
  • Grant Mantooth continues to realize his promise as a swimmer – we have to get this guy to States! In the 200 Free on Saturday, he cut an amazing 61.32 seconds – that’s more than a whole minute!
  • Jeremy Kleb, it is working! How did you beat your 100 Free PR by 6.91 seconds?  That’s a ton.  Jeremy also lowered his 50 Free PR by .41 seconds.
  • RJ Kenna, an 8th grader at the end of a long line of great Seton swimmers is working his way up with two big PRs. In 100 Breaststroke, he beat his previous best by 2.90 seconds and in 50 Back leading off a medley relay he beat his previous best by 1.58 seconds
  • Caroline Griffin, another one of our up and coming young middle-schoolers had a great swim in the 200 Free, beating her PR by 6.18 seconds.
  • Kevin Geiran, you rock man! Nice job in the 100 Free with a big 2.99 second PR.
  • Bryanna Farmer is back for her senior year and the joy she has brought with her is infectious. That is part of the reason I was so happy to see her beat her PR in the 400 meter Free (converted from 500 yards) by 2.43 seconds.  Given the distance involved, this is normally pretty hard to do this early in the season.
  • Ben Ceol has really come on strong this season. On Saturday, he swam a great 100 Fly, lowering his PR by 8.20 seconds.
  • Elizabeth Caron (7) just continues to make big improvements. In the 50 Free, she dropped an almost unbelievable 1.97 seconds.  Elizabeth also swam 100 Fly for the first time swimming the yards equivalent of 1:30.07 – that is really quite impressive for a 7th
  • Joe Arnold (8) somehow lowered his 50 Free PR by another 3.23 seconds!
  • Katie Albin (8) looks like she’s going to be a good one in the future for Seton. In the 50 Free leading off a Relay, she beat her PR by 2.26 seconds.  Then in 100 Breaststroke, she beat her PR by .90 seconds.  Katie’s breaststroke is really starting to get quite good, particularly with the improvement she’s made in her head movement.

And here are the rest of the great performances that made up our PR total:

  • Jack Santschi had a very nice swim in the 50 Free, beating his PR by .26 seconds
  • Brendan Santschi is starting to figure out how to swim fly. How about a 4.80 second PR in the 100?
  • Cris Salas had a nice swim in 100 Back when he beat his PR by .18 seconds. Ready for FCS next week Cris!?
  • Cat Pechie brought that big smile to the 200 Free and left with the same big smile after her 3.09 second PR. And then she hit the stage at open mic night and hit another by PR!
  • Mary Ostrich continues to improve in freestyle, this time with a 2.04 second PR in 100 Free.
  • Kathleen O’Malley rocked her 50 Free with a 1.88 second PR
  • Bridget O’Malley was super in the 400 meter freestyle, beating her previous best (converted from 500 yards) by 3.26 seconds
  • Patrick Murray did a very nice job in 100 Free with his 2.95 second PR. He also did a great job stepping into an empty spot in one of our Boys 400 Free Relays at the last minute
  • Josh Miller just got under his PR in 100 Breast, by .01 seconds – but that is still a PR! His long underwater glides were very impressive.  We’ll be working on turns this week, so I’d expect some more Breaststroke PRs for Joshua in the near future.
  • Claire Kenna ventured out of her comfort zone of sprint freestyle and breaststroke to try the 400 meter Free and beat her PR by 2.98 seconds.
  • Julianna Holmes improved her PR in 50 Free by another 2.61 seconds. She is really starting to get the hang of this in her first year on the team.
  • Rosie Hall had a nice swim in the 100 Free, beating her previous best by 1.79 seconds
  • Patrick Hall cut another .81 seconds from his 50 Free PR. He now has the 10th fastest 50 Free time on the team.
  • David Flook (8) cruised through the 200 Free with a big 5.39 second PR
  • Justin Fioramonti (8) is picking up the breaststroke. On Saturday, he beat his PR by 1.20 seconds.  We have lots of middle-schoolers with great potential on this team!
  • Jerry Dalrymple (7) lowered his 50 Free PR by another .09 seconds.
  • Alex Ceol cut another .59 seconds from his 50 Free PR. He now has the 7th fastest 50 Free time on the boys team.
  • Will Arnold is really doing a nice job in his senior campaign. In the 200 IM, he beat his previous best by 1.37 seconds.
  • John Pennefather has really improved his breaststroke technique. Because he had to miss Time Trials, I have no idea how much he’s improved, but it has to be a boatload!
  • Katharine Rowzie’s timing in backstroke is perfect – it is just what I’m trying to get everyone else to do.

Other Great Performances

Here are some other exciting things I remember or took notes on from the meet:

  • Another good example of courage was one that I saw from Anthony Spinosa. Anthony is a senior and this is his first year swimming – so that alone takes some courage!  On Saturday, Anthony was sick, even throwing up twice before the meet started, but when the time came for his 200 Free Relay, he decided that he didn’t want to let his teammates down.  Not only did Anthony swim, he split 35.67.  To put that in perspective, his PR converted to meters is 36.79 – so he swam more than a second faster than his best time ever!
  • Jack Santschi is only in 7th grade – and someone had to remind me of that this weekend as I watched him compete in his first ever 100 Fly. His time, converted to yards was a 1:17.86 – that is already the 8th fastest on the entire team!  He just crushed his heat.  I actually had a couple kids on the team ask me, “Did you see Jack Santschi?”  Yes I did!
  • Mairead Geiran, only a 7th grader hit another State Meet qualifying time – even though she is too young to be eligible for the meet. The State cut for 100 meter Fly is 1:17.21 (1:09.56 in yards) and Mairead’s first attempt at it this season was a 1:16.36.
  • Christian Ceol (8) sure has been a great addition to the team. I just love how hungry he is to get better in practice.  On Saturday, I was trying to get some times on him since he came to us just last week – after time trials.  One thing that required was that he swim 100 Backstroke and 100 Breaststroke, back-to-back, immediately followed by a lead-off leg of the 400 Free Relay – three events in a row.  When he was done, all he told me was “I’m tired”.  Yes, I bet you were!
  • Meghan O’Malley was another one who stepped into a challenging situation and just made it happen. Through my own negligence, I ended up entering Meghan in the 100 Free and then the 400 meter Free – back-to-back events.  When I saw her going to the blocks for the 400 Free, still wet from the 100, I knew that I had made a mistake.  But it didn’t phase Meghan – and it certainly didn’t knock that huge smile off of her face!
  • Kalli Dalrymple has been fighting shoulder pain, but that didn’t stop her from trying the 100 Fly! Coach Dalrymple told me that Patrick Dealey is in the same situation and fought through in the same way.
  • David Catabui had a much improved butterfly on Saturday where he tried the 100 event for the first time.

You Can Breathe on the Way Home

One thing that will frustrate a coach as much as anything is watching a swimmer dive off of the blocks and then lose all of that momentum with a bad streamline – and even worse – a breath on the first stroke.  I mean do you really need a breath when you’ve been swimming for 3 seconds?

So to help make the point, I started challenging our 200 Free Relays to take on 11 total breaths.  That means that everyone gets three (3) breaths in their 50 meter leg, but one member of the team has to do it in only two (2).  It was sort of exciting to see swimmers take up the challenge like Cris Salas, Martin Quinan and Josh Miller who did their 50s in only two breaths and like Alex Ceol who did his 50 in only one breath.

So seriously here – if you are sprinting a 50 Free, only the youngest swimmers on the team should be taking more than three (3) breaths.  As my coach used to say when I was a swimmer, “you can breathe on the way home”.

Final Notes

  • Next Saturday is our annual Homecoming Meet at Central Park. Our warm-up will be a noon rather than the normal 1:00 p.m. so please note the change.  Plan to be on deck ready to stretch at 11:39 a.m. And spread the word to all of the alumni that you know!
  • We started Breaststroke last week, and from what I could see, we really need to finish it. Then we will do Breast/Fly turns and underwater body dolphins. So don’t miss Monday practice!
  • Don’t forget: I’ve scheduled the pool time at Central Park for practices over Christmas break.  I’m targeting December 21st, 22nd, 28th and 29th at 10:00 a.m. for Varsity swimmers (non-exhibition) only.  If you are in town, I will expect you to come.  If we want to be ready for the championship season which begins only a month after Christmas, we need to train over break.  I’m working on special guest coaches, but you are very likely to see former Seton great Cat Rogers for at least the practices on the 21st and 22nd.
  • On December 31st we’ll have our annual Cystic-Fibrosis Swim-a-thon from 10:00 a.m. to Noon. Thanks again to the Given family for running it again.  I’ll pass on more information as I get it.
  • I’ve told all of those effected, but just so we are clear – no more Speedo style swim suits for Seton Swimming.

Next week’s meet is includes the defending boy’s conference champion, Fredericksburg Christian.  I’d really rather not type that phrase ever again 😉  Come to practice this week ready to work – especially you boys!

See you Monday morning,

Coach Jim Koehr

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