What a weekend! On Friday and Saturday, Seton Swimming hosted the State Championship meet at the Freedom Center. The meet was not only a tremendous success for VSIS Swimming, it was also a time for outstanding accomplishment for Seton School. A high school with only 107 boys and 134 girls in grades 9 to 12 had a lot to be proud of this past weekend:
- The Seton Girls were the Division II State Champions
- Our Girl’s 8th place finish overall was the best ever
- Nevin Cook took the State Championship and State record in 200 IM
- The Seton Boys were the Division II State runner-up
- The Seton Boys finished 11th overall
- 5 out of 6 Seton Relays finished in the top-8
- We set 6 new team records
Seton Girls are Division II State Champions!
Going into the meet, I had a high degree of confidence that we’d take the State Championship, but my confidence was quickly shaken with Peninsula Catholic High School’s girls medley beat us in the first event of preliminaries – even after we had done our best time ever! At the end of the first day, even though we had swum PRs nearly every time we hit the water, we were actually losing to PCHS 57 to 49. Suddenly, I was very worried. I got even more worried when I scored the remainder of the meet from the prelims heat sheet and found out that, unless something changed, we would lose 124-122!
Something did change during Saturday’s prelims! Our girls universally swam their great – Jessica Dunn took the 3rd seed in 100 back, both of our 2nd day relays improved their seedings within the top-8, and Alex Doonis jumped from 11th into the top 8. Now, if we could hold our new seedings during the finals, we were in a position to win 131 – 125. I spent much of the time during Saturday’s finals sitting with Mrs. Carroll and Mr. Vanderwoude, tracking every up and down for PCHS. They were down, and we were up – the final score between Seton and PCHS for the Division II title was 133.5 – 122. We won! Here are the races that scored the big points for us:
Day One Scoring Swims
- Our Girls 200 Medley Relay of Jessica Dunn, Mary-Kate Kenna, Lea Mazzoccoli and Lauren Donohoe finished in the top 8 with a new team record time of 1:57.15. Jessica Dunn also set a new individual team record in 50 back while leading off the medley when she swam a very fast 28.50 during the finals. Relays score a lot of points. 8th place got us 22 points.
- Jessica Dunn had her in-season best time in 200 IM at 2:11.80 to take 5th overall and score 14 points for the team. (For the top swimmers like Jessie, we have to differentiate between “in-season” times and “shaved and tapered” times because they train so hard during the season, that they actually have to taper down their training to get enough rest to do their best times). Her first 100 during the Finals was a particularly fast 1:01.22, and her final time was a new team record!
- In the 50 Free, generally the most competitive event in a big meet because of the impact that even .1 seconds can have your place, 9th grader Lauren “the Machine” Donohoe and 8th grader Alex Doonis took 12thand 14th place respectively scoring a combined 8 points. Alex had her standing start PR of 26.09 in the prelims and the Machine was just .03 off of her PR.
- Lea Mazzoccoli picked a fine time to set a PR in 100 Fly. After just squeaking into Finals with a 16th place finish in prelims, Lea popped a 1:04.32 in Finals to take 12th place. That swim scored 5 points instead of my planned 1 point for 16th.
Day Two Scoring Swims
- Our first big scoring race on Saturday came in the Girls 200 Free Relay of Jessica Dunn, Alex Doonis, Meghan Morch and Lauren “the Machine” Donohoe. This may have been the most impressive race of the day for our girl’s team. They entered the meet seeded 6th, dropped over 3 seconds in prelims to move up to 5th for finals, and then dropped more than another second to jump up to 4th place overall. Their 1:41.26 broke a team record and crushed PCHS. The splits were nearly unbelievable, particularly in the very exciting Finals. Jessie led off with a 25.84 and we got faster from there. Alex Doonis split a 24.88! Remember her PR for 50 Free was 26.09 – not sure where that came from, but I’d love to find it again! Meghan Morch split 25.54 – again, that was dramatically faster than her standing-start PR. The Machine brought home 4th place with a 25.00 split – her standing-start PR is 26.00. Great relay starts explain part of it, but the rest is just exception effort on the part of these 4 girls who rose to the occasion at the biggest meet of the year. Relays score double the points of individual events – this relay got 30 points alone! And, more importantly, it widened our projected lead over PCHS! After the race, I looked over at the PCHS coach – I could see that she knew our girls came to play on Saturday night.
- No girl on the team scored more points for Seton than Jessica Dunn. In her last event of the meet, Jessie garnered All-State honors with a 3rd place finish in 100 Backstroke. That was 16 points! Combined with her points from the 200 IM and ¼ of the points from the 4th and 8th place relays, Jessica scored a whopping 43 of Seton’s 133.5 points personally! We’re going to miss Jessie when she goes off to swim at NCAA Division I St. Francis next season.
- I’ve never given an award like Swimmer of the Meet for our team, but if I had to give one to a member of our girls team this weekend, it would have to go to Alex Doonis. Alex entered the meet seeded 11th in 100 Backstroke. During the prelims, she cut almost half a second from her PR and jumped into the top 8! The way a swim meet is scored makes 8th place a beautiful thing. Once you are in the top-8, no one from the next 8 (9th thru 16th) can jump ahead of you, so Alex guaranteed herself 11 points instead of just 6. Going into Saturday morning, we were 8 points behind, and there was 5 of those points. During the Finals, she wasn’t able to improve her place, but she was able improve her PR, this time by another half second, when she went 1:03.58! The next closest 8th grader in the meet was more than 4 seconds slower than that. For the meet, Alex swam a total of 8 times between prelims and finals, and she swam a PR all 8 times – it was an incredible weekend of swimming for this rising star of Seton Swimming.
- The way our girls were swimming was starting to make me feel better, but Mary-Kate Kenna was the one to finally put me at ease. Four weeks ago, MK broke 1:15 in 100 Breast for the first time. Well the flood gates have opened since then. During prelims she swam a 1:13.29 to just jump into the Finals with a 16th place finish. With the pressure off (only 16 swimmers were in the finals, so she was guaranteed to do no worse than her current position), she had the race of her life in the Finals at night. MK swam a 1:12.82 to jump up to a tie for 13th place!
- After Mary-Kate, Jessie, and Alex took care of business during their individual events on Saturday night’s Finals, I checked the official score and saw that, if our Girls 400 Free Relay of Alex Doonis, Laura Talbott, Kimberley Melnyk and Lauren “the Machine” Donohoe just finished without a DQ, we’d win, but I just couldn’t bring myself to tell them that. I could see they were ready to swim, and boy did they! During prelims, they qualified in the top 8 on the strength of Alex Doonis’ PR lead-off split of 57.38 and Laura Talbott’s 58.54. Their 3:52.27 was the fastest of the season – even without Jessie on the relay. During their championship final heat, I stood next to one of the relay take-off judges just praying that I didn’t live to regret not telling them to be just a little bit careful on their relay starts. Kimberley Melnyk had an amazing relay start, which any other time would have made me very excited, but this time I could only look over the judges shoulder and pray that he put a check mark for her lane – he did. As I watched the splits display on the board, I got more and more excited. Alex led off with another 57-low and Laura repeated her previously never seen 58. Kimberley only recently broke 1:00 in 100 Free and did it again when it counted, but the highlight of the finals swim was The Machine. I’m not sure how big she is, but this 9th grader couldn’t be much bigger than 5’3” and 100 lbs. Standing on the blocks next to her was Jenna Jacoby, the daughter of Redskins offensive line great Joe Jacoby (who used to be a hero of mine until I got to deal with him in my role as meet host in the watch & go seating area). The Jacoby girl is well over 6 feet tall and there’s no way she weighs less than 2 bills. The Machine hit the water first, and then Jacoby, who earlier had taken first in 100 backstroke, dove in and tried to catch her. She did eventually catch our little Machine, but it took a :53 to do it. When The Machine got out of the water, her competitive nature had her upset that she got caught. If only either of us had known at the time what we know now – her split was a :55.48! Absolutely unbelievable! I told her that she could hit a 55 if she just adjusted a few things in her stroke mechanics that we’ve been talking about in practice, but I didn’t mean she could hit it this year!
Other Great Performances for the Girls
- Carolyn Claybrooks is going to score a lot of points for us in the future. Her PR in the 200 Free on Friday was outstanding (24th place), but it was nothing compared with her swim in the 500 on Saturday. With the best stroke technique I’ve seen from her all year, Carolyn dropped 13.51 seconds from her PR and broke 6:00 (5:57.87) in the 500 for the first time ever. That swim was good enough from 21st place overall. I think Coach Claybrooks may have been more excited than her daughter about the whole thing.
- Mary-Kate Kenna did more this weekend than score with a PR swim in 100 Breaststroke and help our medley relay to a top-8 finish. She also had a .62 second PR in 200 IM with a 2:24.79, good enough for 19thplace.
- Rachel Lambrecht broke onto the State team for the first time as a Freshman and swam well in 100 Breaststroke, finishing in 32nd place overall.
- Kimberley Melnyk not only had a great relay swim in our top-8 400 Free Relay, she also had two PRs individually. In the 100 Fly, she cut .27 seconds and took 25th place overall. In 100 Back, she cut .41 seconds to take 27th place overall. It was a great way for Kimberley to wrap up her senior year of swimming.
- Meghan Morch swam well in the 50 and 100 Free, finishing 17th and 25th, respectively.
- Laura Talbott had a 24th and 25th place finish in 200 IM and 100 Back. As good as those swims were, her leg of the 400 Free relay is what I’ll remember.
- I was glad to see Danielle Smith make it onto the State team in 100 Back. Danielle was able to take 39th place overall.
- Bridget Wunderly has been on a tear over the past month, with several PRs. This time, she cut another .14 seconds from her 100 Backstroke to come within .02 seconds of breaking 1:09.
- Freshman Sarah Locke made it onto the State Team for the first time and swam within .01 seconds of her PR in 200 IM. That swim was good enough for 28th place.
- Kimberley Melnyk, Megan Hoffer, Katee Corkery and Kate Kosten sure looked like they had fun swimming in that senior 200 Free Relay. Megan even did her best relay split ever.
Yep – you read that right. Thanks to Mrs. Maureen Duran, Seton fielded it first diving team since Katie Giarra jumped into the State Meet for Seton and won the State Diving Championship back in 2003. Since the meet was local and diving is scored like a single swimming event, I asked Mrs. Duran if she be up for trying to get some swimmers to do 11 dives. She jumped to the challenge, we scrounged for board time, and she managed to help former swimmers Katie Racine and Ann Duran get to the point where they could do 11 dives from several predefined categories. What I know about diving you could write on the back of a stamp in 20 foot letters, but apparently, it is not easy getting to 11 dives. Congratulations to Ann and Katie, who finished the State meet in 17th and 18th place respectively. Next year, remember that diving counts as only 1 event and you can participate in 2! See you at practice!
Nevin Cook Wins the 200 IM State Championship and Takes the State Record!
Nevin Cook is the man. There’s just little else I can say, but that’s not going to stop me from writing another 500 words about him. His performance in the 200 IM this weekend showed me and everyone who watched why he’s a champion. He was down, and he came back with a vengeance. Like all great champions, being down is a temporary condition.
On Friday morning, Nevin entered the State Championship seeded 1st. Because they circle seed the last 3 preliminary heats, Nevin swam in the fastest heat with the 4th seed, the 7th seed, the 10th seed, etc. He crushed the competition, but didn’t swim particularly well. When all the times from prelims were in, Nevin was entering the Finals that night seeded a disappointing 3rd. After the morning session, I didn’t see Nevin again until warm-up at Finals that night. I’m not sure where he went, but I know he didn’t eat lunch with the team or hang out with anyone that I knew of. When I met him entering the Freedom Center for the Finals, the look on his face told me that he had spent the afternoon on a mountaintop somewhere sitting alone to hone his steely resolve. He most definitely had his game face on. The next time I saw Nevin after warm-up was when he was marching up to the blocks for the Boys Medley Relay. I’ve been watching Nevin swim for 6 years now, and I know that when he pops a good split in the medley at the beginning of the meet, he really gets a head of steam up for the rest of the meet. How about a 26.59 for 50 Breaststroke! He got out of the water, saw his split, and didn’t smile. The work was yet to be done.
30 minutes later, as he marched up for the 200 IM to a song picked by the top seed – someone other than Nevin, he again looked very, very serious. After the names were announced, he got up on his block and stood up as straight and tall as his 5’9” frame would allow, back slightly arches, chest out – it’s the way he stands before every race – just staring at the far wall thinking about how to get there even faster than ever before. His main competition was the soon to be State Champion in 100 Backstroke, Robert Barry. Robert was also a top butterflier in the State. Because the first two legs of a 200 IM are a 50 Fly and a 50 Back, I knew that if Nevin were at all close after 100 yards, the race was over. And that is exactly what happened.
Nevin’s 50 fly split was 25.06 (remember that this is the first 50 of a 200 and he’s not swimming freestyle) and his 50 back split was 28.97. That means he swam the first 100 yards in only 54.03, which put him only .76 seconds behind Robert Barry. By the time Nevin surfaced on his breaststroke pulldown, that .79 second lead was completely gone. As Nevin ate up water with eat stroke of his powerful breaststroke, all I could think of was that 3 Doors Down song “Love Me When I’m Gone”. On the video, I was shouting over and over again, “he’s gone!” His 32.84 breaststroke split was nearly 3 seconds faster than Barry’s and everyone else in the field – except for one swimmer from Woodberry named Chris Clark.
Clark was only .23 seconds behind Nevin at the hundred, and he was 1.31 seconds behind Nevin at the 150. For a while, it looked like Clark was gaining on Nevin, but Nevin’s 27.83 final 50 Free was too much for him. Nevin touched the wall in 1:54.70, beating the 2003 State record by .37 seconds. That was Nevin’s best in-season time ever (his best shaved and tapered time is 1:51.87), and he picked a great time to do it! Congratulations Nevin Cook! I know your future coaches at Virginia Tech are reading this with great anticipation for your (and their) future!
Seton Boys are Division II State Runners-Up!
The boys dispatched Peninsula Catholic with much more ease than the girls, but they were unable to beat the powerful Hampton Roads Academy, a team loaded with USA swimmers from the Coast Guard team. Yes we had Nevin and Connor, but the rest of the boys on our State team were high school only swimmers with enough desire and talent to score 94 points. That was good enough for 11th overall and 2nd in Division II. That was our best boys finish since Kevin and Nevin teamed to lead our boys to the Division II State Championship two years ago.
The girls and Nevin weren’t the only ones to swim beyond what was previously thought possible:
- Nevin Cook also took the silver medal in the 100 Breaststroke. I recall when Nevin was a freshman – he won the State Championship in 100 Breast down at Hargrave with a 1:02.41. This year, Nevin sent 58.80, a pretty good in-season time for him and took second to the swimmer of the meet. To put that time in perspective, it was within .09 seconds of the automatic All-America Qualifying time and well within the All-America consideration cut. It looks like Nevin could be an All-America in two events this year.
- We had two relays that combined two Cook brothers and two Koehr brothers, and those relays really rocked with two top-8 finishes:
o I’m still excited about the 8th place finish for our Boys 200 Medley Relay of Connor Cook, Nevin Cook, Daniel Koehr and Sean Koehr. They entered the meet seeded 10th, but jumped to 8th on the sizeable relay split PRs of Daniel Koehr and Sean Koehr. At the start of the season, we lacked a butterflier for our medley so we were forced to go with Daniel’s, who swam 50 fly in 30 seconds at our pre-season time trials. All year long, he got faster, and that improvement culminated with a 26.86 Fly split during the prelims! During the Finals, he was able to repeat the 26 split. After Daniel’s Fly, Sean hits the water. His standing-start PR was 23.72 at the time, and somehow he managed to split 22.88. That was the fastest 50 split of his life, but he wasn’t done. At finals that night, he split a 22.66! Not to shabby for a lacrosse player who only swims for his high school. The momentum wouldn’t have been possible for the Koehr brothers had the Cook brothers not set the pace up front. Prior to the finals, Connor Cook had never broken 27 seconds in 50 back, but that changed when he lead off with a 26.87. And we all know what happens when Nevin hits the water for Breaststroke.
o Our Boys 200 Free Relay of Nevin Cook, Daniel Koehr, Connor Cook and Sean Koehr entered the meet seeded 12th. They dropped nearly 2 seconds in the prelims to jump into the top-8. In the Finals, they didn’t improve from 8th, but they cut another second from their time and set a new team record, breaking the 2006 record of Kevin Koehr, Bryan Morch, Sean Koehr and Nevin Cook by .11 seconds. Their splits were very fast compared to their previous best times, especially Sean Koehr’s 22.93, Connor Cook’s 23.51, and Daniel Koehr’s 24.18.
- Connor Cook saw a payoff for all of his hard work. His 200 IM was outstanding. Connor placed 11th after he cut 1.19 seconds from his PR and went 2:04.64 – a very fast time for a sophomore. In the 100 Back, Connor was even more impressive. He hit his PR in both prelims and then again in finals with a 56.72 and then a 55.88.
- Daniel Koehr, another sophomore, was on fire this past weekend. Not only did he do his faster ever splits in two relays, but he cut nearly a second from his 200 IM PR to break 2:20 for the first time and he cut 2 seconds from his 100 Breast PR to go 1:08.58. He placed 26th in 200 IM and 21st in 100 Breaststroke.
- Sean Bartnick completed his senior season with a great performance leading off our “A” 400 Free relay and a 200 Free relay. For the 400 Free relay, Sean broke 57 in 100 Free for the first time ever when he went a PR 56.97. He also PR’d in 50 Free leading off the 200 Free relay when he went 25.06. These were two very good swims that he will hopefully remember for a good long time.
- Things have been really clicking for David Basinger over the last 4 weeks of the season. I think he may have finally decided that he was ready to do the things that were necessary to improve both his stroke and his conditioning. Well his hard work paid off in a big way when he cut 1.79 seconds from his 200 IM. He also had a 26.11 split anchoring one of our 200 Free relays, a time nearly a second faster than his standing-start PR.
- Joe Ross must have had some of Coach Ross’ chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast before the 400 Free Relay. His PR for 100 Free is 1:00.33, and, as the anchor to our 400 Free Relay, he split an incredible 56.72! Where did that come from?!? In the 200 Free Relay earlier in the morning, Joe split a 24.96, breaking 25 for the first time ever. It was a great way to wrap up a swimming career.
- Sam Quinan, another senior swimming for the last time, also made the most of it when he split a 26.71 in his 50 yd leg of the 200 Free Relay. Get this – Sam’s previous standing-start PR was 29.13. Wow!
- Vincent “Catfish” Dunn is only in 8th grade and swam on our State team for the first time. He finished 37th in the 200 Free and 35th in 100 Back. His most impressive swim, however, came in the 400 Free relay when he split a 56.61! It just seemed like everyone was doing amazing splits. Catfish is part of a core group of underclassmen boys that is going to make up the Seton boys team of the future. Congratulations for qualifying for States Catfish.
We’re losing a lot of seniors to graduation this coming year. From the girls side we’ll really miss Jessica Dunn, Lea Mazzoccoli, Kimberley Melnyk, Meghan Morch, Megan Hoffer, Kate Kosten, and Katee Corkery. On the boys side, we’ll really miss Nevin Cook, Sean Koehr, Joe Ross, Sean Bartnick and Sam Quinan. It has been a while since we’ve had to absorb such a loss of swimming talent and leadership, but I know we’ll still be strong in the future because of the strong, younger swimmers that we’ve developed on this team.
How Did a Small School Like Seton Host the State Championship Meet?
I got that question a lot over this past weekend, and I always answered it the same way: Near 100% parent involvement. We just planned and executed a State Championship meet with 481 swimmers, 38 teams, 6 separate competitive sessions, over 20 officials, over 100 separate lane timers, music, awards, DJ quality announcing, seating logistics for nearly 1,000 spectators, and the near universal participation of the Seton Swim Team families. Believe it or not, every family on the team, except two with really good reasons, participated in some way to making this meet a success for Seton. How many schools could get that high degree of parental involvement? I dare say none but Seton. We often have trouble getting timers from other schools. This is part of the greatness of Seton.
Running the meet involved more people than I can mention, but, at the serious risk of leaving some out, I’ll try to mention the folks that took on leadership roles:
- Chris Cook – Mr. Cook was the co-host of the meet and did the vast majority of the heavy lifting behind the scenes. I know for a fact he was working on this meet well after midnight last Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. That doesn’t count the hours of preparation in the weeks leading up to the meet. On Thursday night after the pre-meet warm-up, we had a list of things that had to get done. He finished them up after 1:30, drove the 35 minutes home, and was back at the pool to meet me at 5:30 a.m. And he did it all with the patience of St. Joseph.
- Julie Mazzoccoli (and Joe!) – Concessions was a huge opportunity for us to use this meet to make some serious money for Seton Swimming. Unlike most schools, Seton Swimming takes no money at all from SetonSchool – in the language of the public schools, we are an “unfunded” sport. And personally, that’s the way I think it should be. But it only works if parents like Mrs. Mazzoccoli step up to take the lead on a project a massive as mobilizing all of the families on the team to handle something as large as concessions for a huge event like the State Championship. I can wait to see how much money we were able to bring in as a result of her leadership. Did you see how good our seniors looked for the senior parade? That was another project that Mrs. Mazzoccoli took charge of. Now we’ll have those capes for future senior parades too.
- Coach Richard Lowell – Coach Lowell made the difference in so many ways for this meet. Did you notice how the way we tapered our high school only swimmers differed from past years? Coach Lowell was sending me study after study on the physiology of swimming training, and with his guidance, we designed practices for the last two weeks that really made the difference. How else do you explain so many huge drops in time? Without those big drops, would we have beaten PCHS for the State Championship? I’m not sure we would have. Coach Lowell was also the meet photographer. We came up with the idea of using our own photographer to get around the licensing fees and copyrights that professionals charge whenever you want access to a photo that they have taken. Instead of doing that, Coach Lowell stepped up to act like a real pro, take all of the pictures, and then produce a DVD with thousands of meet pictures that we were (are) selling for $15 each. I can’t wait to see the final tally on that one, but all of the proceeds will go to Seton Swimming. Coach Lowell – you have made a real impact!
- Coach Ross and Coach Claybrooks – together with Coach Hoffer, who coached the beginner lanes during the season, these coaches actually make it possible for us to have the size program that we have. Coach Ross also took on the last minute role of handling the responsibilities for the ready room during finals (lining up the championship finalist for their march to the blocks).
There are so many other people that I’d love to mention, including:
- Patty Cook for handling things while we monopolized her husband and for making a last minute run to Northern Virginia for T-Shirts
- Patrick Koehr, Emily Lowell and Keeley Cook for stepping in as runners at the meet
- Brendan Koehr, Jonathan Rosato, and John Ross for communicating what event was in the water to the folks camping in the gym
- Betsy Mooney for being there bright and early, as well as late, doing whatever Mr. Cook and I needed, whenever we needed it – and to Mr. and Mrs. Mooney for getting her there.
- All of the Seton Swimmers who worked concessions and cheered our team to victory
And finally, I’d like to thank The Chief (Mrs. Carroll) and Mr. Vanderwoude for coming out at night to cheer us on. It’s great to have the support of the top folks at Seton.
It was a truly great weekend for us all. I’ve never been prouder to be associated with Seton School as I was this weekend. I’m sure I’ll remember this weekend for the rest of my life, and I hope that many of our swimmers will too.