725 athletes from 50 teams, music blasting, kids singing and dancing, costumes in a parade, hugs and tears from Seniors swimming for the last time, and Seton families gathering between sessions at our rented river house for Pasta and Chinese noodle feasts, and even our own swim team St. Valentine’s Day Dance.  Most importantly, we saw kids overcome adversity to shine on the biggest stage of the year.  These were just a few of the highlights from the 2020 VISAA State Swim and Dive Championship at the beautiful Christiansburg Aquatic Center in Christiansburg, VA near Virginia Tech.

Last weekend (Feb 13-15, 2020), we took 24 swimmers, 7 additional seniors, and 20 parents into this incredibly fast meet.  In a meet like this, there are Preliminary heats in the morning to establish the top 16 qualifiers who swim again at night in the Finals.  Getting swimmers to qualify in the Top 16 in a meet like this is no small feat.  It is especially difficult with almost no USA swimmers.  In spite of that, two (2) of our six (6) scoring relays for boys and girls qualified for the Consolation Finals, and the other four (4) qualified as alternates in 17th or 18th place.

17th and 18th place are tough spots to land, but with all of the adversity we’ve been through over the past two (2) weeks in terms of sickness and transfers, I was very proud of our kids.  We showed a lot of heart, and we’ll be back.

Seton wasn’t officially a co-host for the meet, but I was so proud to watch Bill Dealey, Hank Konstanty, and Jim Griffin to manage all the timing and scoring systems, Charles Seltman who served as one of the Starters and Deck Referees, and Therese Griffin and Dave Wilson who served as a Stroke and Turn Judges.  The meet required about 125 volunteers, and little Seton was able to fill many of the key roles.  Seton definitely shined last weekend, both in and out of the water.

It was an incredibly fun trip for our team.  For the sixth time, we rented a house off of AirBnB so that we had a place to gather between sessions for comradery and team meals.  This time, we had a wonderful house right on Claytor Lake, about 25 minutes from the pool – it was just beautiful!  The relatively warm February day on Friday allowed us all to enjoy each other’s company down by the lake for a wonderful afternoon of team togetherness after the first day’s Prelims.  Jeremy Kleb (voluntarily) and Nathan Luevano (involuntarily) even felt compelled to test the waters with their own version of a polar bear swim!

Thanks to the leadership of Mrs. Luevano, with a team of fellow Moms including Mrs. Alsup, Mrs. Griffin, and Coach Dalrymple, we had wonderful team meals that didn’t require long waits for restaurants to serve drinks and take orders.  I’m quite sure no other team was eating like we were at States this year!

We started the trip with a team breakfast at IHOP and then headed to the Virginia March for Life at the State Capitol in Richmond on our way down to Christiansburg.  It’s just insanity what is going on in our State house right now with the attacks on the unborn and on religious freedom.  I was glad our team could lend its voice to the cause.

One of the highlights of the meet for me was our Thursday night dinner at the Team House.  Last year at States, The Captains had put together gift bags for each swimmer, but what started as a presentation of gift bags turned into a wonderful event that continued this year also.  I hope the future Captains maintain this tradition.

After the gift bags, Shane had “The Cone” – a traffic cone from the Seton parking lot that ended up at the State meet a few years ago.  Since then, “The Cone” has been signed by every State swimmer.  The Captains had a ceremony where all of the new State swimmers were honored with a chance to sign “The Cone”.  Even Coach Mulhern got to sign.

The signing of The Cone was followed by impromptu speeches from each Captain that were amazingly inspiring.  I was so proud of our team that night, let me tell you.  The whole event was conceived and led by our Captains, and it was a beautiful way for everyone to be reminded of the larger lessons of Seton Swimming.  I always say that, “Swimming ain’t about swimming.”  Thursday night was a great demonstration of that.

Thank you, Captains, for your great leadership this weekend and this entire season!

Farewell to Our Seniors

It was impossible not to notice that this was the last meet for 18 seniors.  In alphabetical order, we said farewell to:

  • Katie Albin
  • Jacob Alsup
  • Joey Arnold
  • Christian Ceol
  • Callie Couture, Manager
  • Lauran Curley
  • Drew Dalrymple
  • Katie Dealey
  • Theresa Dwane
  • Justin Fioramonti
  • Caroline Griffin
  • Jeremy Kleb
  • Shane Koehr
  • Anne Konstanty
  • Elena Morano
  • Kathleen O’Malley
  • Dominick Tolentino
  • Patrick Wood, Manager

Many shared some tears.  This is my 10th time experiencing this with one of my kids, and I’ll admit that it got to me a bit too.

One long-standing tradition at our State Championship is the Senior Parade.  Every senior dresses up and marches out onto the deck with their name announced.  “Dresses up” has meant a lot of things to our seniors over the years, but this year was the best I’ve ever seen.  Take a look in the Photo Gallery at our 18 seniors channeling their best 1980’s Richard Simmons and Olivia Newton John, complete with leg warmers and fanny packs.

Even more noticeable to me though was that it was the last meet for four (4) Seton families that have been stalwarts of Seton Swimming for many years.

Who can imagine a Seton Swimming program without the Griffin’s, the Alsup’s, the Ceol’s or the Kleb’s?  In the case of the Ceol’s and Kleb’s, this is the end of a long line of kids who have been on the Seton team for many years.  Jillian Ceol started as a 7th grader back in 2010, and Kirsten and Kelsey Kleb started as middle-schoolers on the team back in 2003!  All four (4) of these families have been instrumental in making Seton Swimming what it is today.

We are certainly going to miss all 18 of our graduating seniors.  They are going to be hard to replace, but fortunately, most of them left us with younger siblings to take their place 😉

The Invisible (Wo)Man

The vast majority of the team actually slept at a nearby Hampton Inn, from where I got a wonderful report of Katie Albin living our GEMS.  If you’ve ever eaten a Hampton Inn breakfast, you know that it requires someone to get up early and set up a buffet with loads of different options, and that same person has to continually keep it clean and restocked throughout the morning.

Katie noticed.

In a very simple act of gratitude, Katie thanked all of the people involved in breakfast, and they were so blown away by her simple act of kindness, that a report of her action made it all the way from the hotel manager back to me.

I remember last summer when Ceili Koehr was doing her summer reading at the beach in Breezy Point, NY, and she asked me to read a G.K. Chesterton short story called The Invisible Man.  For those of you who know me well, you can probably picture the scene with me in a lawn chair, alone on the beach, enjoying a product made from a crop vital to the founding of America, and wondering what the heck Chesterton was talking about.

“The Invisible Man” is a detective story where a lonely, pathetic postman spends the story harassing a young woman and ultimately murdering his romantic rival by cutting him to pieces – all without being seen.  Mrs. Carroll!  What are these kids reading?

At the time, I’m afraid I was not much help to poor Ceili, but a few months later, I was in a Chicago airport restroom with an old African American man who was wiping down the sinks before I used one.  He never made eye contact.  He never smiled.  He just went about his work and pushed his cart to the next sink.

“The invisible man!” I thought, remembering my morning at the beach a few months before.

This old man was so visible, so much a part of the scene we see every time we are in an airport restroom, that he actually became invisible.  Hundreds of people an hour go through his bathroom and never wonder why there is no water on the counter around their sink.  Then they splash water on the counter around their sink and leave.

I’m so proud of Katie for not allowing the woman serving our team breakfast to become invisible.  God put her in Katie’s life for a reason – and happily for her, God put Katie in her life too.

A Message from Trinity Christian Captain, Brooke Williams

After the Friday morning Preliminaries, we returned to the house nursing our wounds a bit from two 18th place finishes for both the Boys and Girls 200 Medley Relays.  Opportunities were lost in both cases.

Trinity Christian had a chance to do something significant at this meet, particularly on the girl’s side, but I think they may have been nursing some wounds a bit also.

Their Girls 200 Medley Relay qualified 9th, which put them in the Consolation Finals.  By Championship Meet rules, they would be unable to jump into the top 8, no matter how fast they swam, and unfortunately for Trinity, one of the teams they needed to beat, Williamsburg Christian, did qualify in the top 8 – just .03 seconds ahead of Trinity.

With no one from Seton Swimming, we decided that we were going to go back to the Finals and adopt Trinity Christian.  9th is less painful than 17th or 18th, but it is still painful.

Our decision to go back generated the following text message the next night from Trinity Christian Senior Captain Brooke Williams.  I told Brooke I was going to put it in my blog:

Seton Swimming:

You guys are so amazing!!! Every single one of y’all should be so proud of the way you represent God and your school. It is so obvious to everyone around you that you are committed to holding true to your G.E.M.S.

Every year I encounter your team you never fail to give us a run for our money in whatever meet we’re competing in (: and while doing that, you never stop supporting us and showing humility and encouragement.

You guys have made your mark on VA swimming, and it’s a great one! I know wherever I’m swimming the next four years, I’ll miss your team swimming and cheering next to me!! Keep being the inspiration that you are! <3

Blessings,

Brooke Williams

P.S. great job to everyone at states!! Boys 200 free relay crushed it!!

Thank you, Brooke, for living the virtue of Meekness.  You and your teammates have competed in a way that has made Seton better, even as you and your teammates gave everything you had to try to beat us.  That is as it should be.

Scoring

This meet was unbelievably fast.  Imagine a Boys 200 Freestyle where the first 50 split was 22.56 to his feet, or a Boys Medley Relay with the split for 50 Breaststroke was 24.75, or a Boys 400 Free Relay where the slowest guy went 47.76!  Of the 24 total events, there were four (4) new Meet Records.  With only the top 16 finishers getting points, it is very hard to score at all in a meet like this.  The result is a premium on the fastest swimmers, particularly in the Division II.

Recall that our State Championship is scored like one big championship meet.  The team with the highest point total is declared the “Overall” State Champion, and the Division II team with the most points is declared the “Division II” State Champion.

Here’s an excerpt from the scoring of a very exciting and competitive meet.  The Division II schools are in bold:

Girls

  1. St. Catherine’s School                 279.5
  2. Collegiate School                        251
  3. Bishop O’Connell                       238.5
  4. Norfolk Academy                       230
  5. Trinity Episcopal                        145
  6. St. Stephen’s St. Agnes             142
  7. St. Paul VI Catholic                    133
  8. The Steward School                130.5 – Division II Champ
  9. Madeira                                      125
  10. Williamsburg Christian         107 – Division II Runner-up
  11. Trinity Christian School         92

     26. Seton School                               8

Boys

  1. St. Christopher’s School       345.5
  2. Woodberry Forest School    267.5
  3. Collegiate School                   214
  4. Trinity Episcopal                    146.5
  5. Norfolk Academy                  141
  6. Flint Hill School                     138.5
  7. Bishop O’Connell                  131
  8. St. Anne’s Belfield                 127
  9. St. Stephen’s St. Agnes          91
  10. St Paul VI Catholic                  86
  11. Peninsula Catholic                79.5 – Division II Champ
  12. Hampton Roads Academy  69 – Division II Runner-up

     30. Seton School                            4

Next Season’s VISAA State Championship

I am pleased to report that next year’s VISAA State Championship meet will be at the beautiful new Liberty University Aquatic Center in Lynchburg, VA.

You may recall at this time last year, I felt that it was time for me to step down after 14 years serving as Secretary and Meet Coordinator on the VISAA Swimming Committee because of the VISAA Executive Board’s divisive decision to ban our Committee for hosting future State Championships at Liberty University.  Most of the reasons originally given were red herrings for the real reason:  Liberty espouses a biblical view of human sexuality and its role in the family.

I’m so pleased to report that the clearer heads have prevailed on the VISAA Executive Board.  Thanks in part to the letters and lobbying of Seton, Trinity Christian, Williamsburg Christian and others, the VISAA Executive Board has reached a compromise that allows our VISAA Swimming Committee to have next year’s State Championship at Liberty.   Liberty is simply being asked to sign a non-discrimination statement, which of course, they have no problem doing.

The VISAA has a clear mission.  Standing as a divisive and exclusionary moral arbiter on the most contentious issues of the day is not part of it.  I am very pleased that the VISAA has avoided the precedent of an anti-Christian ideological litmus test for the owners of venues that the VISAA rents for its championship competitions.

Our Scoring Relays Rocked!

Our relays have been the scoring strength of our team this year, and as expected, our relays were our best chance to score at States too.   In a meet this fast, we were right on the edge of scoring in the Top 16.  Unfortunately, we only had two (2) relays jump into that elite company.  Our other four (4) scoring boys and relays finished just outside the money, with two (2) in 17th and two (2) in 18th.  That was pretty tough for all of us involved.

It also made us more appreciative of the two (2) relays that did get in:

  • Our Boys “A” 200 Free Relay has been our most exciting relay all year, particularly because of the number of boys who filtered in and out of the line-up as their splits continued to drop each week. The line-up of Shane Koehr, Drew Dalrymple, Liam Kellogg and Jacob Alsup emerged as the top 4 for States.
    • In the Preliminaries, they qualified in 16th place, just .61 seconds ahead of Fredericksburg Christian. All were fast, but Drew Dalrymple was the star of the money.  How about a 22.97 split?!   That was the only :22 split of the season for our team.
    • In the Finals, our boys moved up to 15th place on the strength of four :23 splits, including Shane Koehr’s PR split of 23.57.
  • Our Girls “A” 400 Free Relay was the highest scoring Seton relay last weekend, qualifying in 13th place and holding their seed in the Finals.
    • This was the last event of the meet, and we’d been having a tough run of just missing the Finals, so I decided it was time for some senior leadership. I went over to the warm-up/warm-down lanes and told Caroline Griffin that she was going to set the tone for the relay by leading off.  And she did!
  • In Prelims, Caroline led off with her best time of the season, by far – 59.87! That was just what we needed.  Combined with Anne Konstanty’s 1.00 second PR split 1:00.56 and the strong near-PR swims of Isabelle Luevano and Mary Pennefather, they got the job done.
    • Then, in the Finals, Caroline led off with an even faster 59.38. Anne also dropped again to 1:00.34.  With Isabelle’s 59.83 and Mary’s anchor of 56.84, they finished witha season best 3:56.65.

Oh, So Close!

Our other four (4) relays came close, but just were not able to get over the hump:

  • Our Boys 200 “A” Medley Relay of Shane Koehr, Jacob Alsup, Jerry Dalrymple, and Drew Dalrymple finished in 18th place in Prelims with everyone close to their PR splits except for Jerry, whose 26.09 split was .31 seconds faster than his previous best.
  • Our Girls 200 “A” Medley Relay of Caroline Griffin, Anne Konstanty, Emily Flynn, and Mary Pennefather. On this 18th place relay, Mary Pennefather certainly got her part done on the anchor leg with her lifetime best split of 25.20!
  • Our Girls “A” 200 Free Relay of Isabelle Luevano, Emily Flynn, Caroline Griffin and Mary Pennefather just missed 16th place by only .26 seconds! It was the toughest finish of the meet for us, but the result was team effort.  If any one of the girls had swim their best time, we would have gotten in.
  • Our Boys “A” 400 Free Relay of Shane Koehr, Drew Dalrymple, Christian Ceol and Jerry Dalrymple also just missed 16th place by a less than 1.0 seconds. The Dalrymple brothers both swam big PR splits, with Drew going the first :52 split of the season (52.58) and Jerry breaking :54 for the first time with a split of 53.55.

Lots of PR Splits for our “B” Relays

The entry rules for States allow each team to qualify an exhibition “B” relay also, and our team depth allowed us to qualify all six (6) possible “B” Relays:

  • Our Boys 200 “B” Medley Relay of Evan Wilson, Nathan Luevano, Joe Wilson, and Liam Kellogg beat their seed by a substantial amount thanks to Evan Wilson’s 29.16 PR and Nathan Luevano’s 31.44 PR split.
  • Our Girls 200 “B” Medley Relay of Mary O’Malley, Clare Waldron, Isabelle Luevano and Kathleen O’Malley beat their seed by nearly 3 seconds with all four (4) swimmers swimming lifetime best splits!
  • Our Boys 200 “B” Free Relay would have finished 25th had they been able to score. John McGrath, Joey Arnold, Jerry Dalrymple, and Christian Ceol.  Jerry Dalrymple had the best swim of the group with a lifetime best split of 24.44.
  • Our Girls 200 “B” Free Relay of Kathleen O’Malley, Maggie Gibbons, Teresa Bingham and Anne Konstanty led by PR splits by both Teresa and Anne.
  • Our Boys 400 “B” Relay of Nathan Luevano, John McGrath, Joe Wilson and Jacob Alsup all swam well, particularly Jacob Alsup who had the swim of his life. How about a :53.37 100 Free split!  His previous best this season was 56.11.  John McGrath also swam a PR split of 57.27, down from last week’s amazing 57.88.
  • Our Girls 400 “B” Relay of Teresa Bingham, Kathleen O’Malley, Katie Albin, and Mary O’Malley all swam well, but Katie Albin was the standout on this one. Her huge drop last week got her on the relay in the first place, and then she cut another 1.28 seconds from her PR split again on this relay.  It was a great way to end her career swimming at Seton.

Individual Qualifiers Swam Well

It is really hard for a highschool-only swimmer to qualify from States in an individual event, but we had seven (7) swimmers make the cut:

  • Jacob Alsup (SR) finished 35th in 100 Fly with a 1:01.38
  • Drew Dalrymple (SR) finished 39th in 50 Free with a 23.79
  • Emily Flynn (SO) took 41st in 100 Fly with a 1:09.75
  • Caroline Griffin (SR) had the our highest individual finish at 23rd in 100 Backstroke
  • Shane Koehr (SR) finished 32nd in 100 Backstroke with a 1:00.77
  • Anne Konstanty (SR) finished 38th in 200 Free
  • Mary Pennefather (SR) took 24th in 50 Free at 26.24, an outstanding finish for a freshman

We also had a number of swimmers qualify for the Bonus 50 Free event.  Here are the ones who ended their season with a Personal Record in that event or during a relay lead-off:

  • Joey Arnold (SR) cut .34 seconds to go 25.54.
  • Jerry Dalrymple (JR) dropped .20 seconds with a 24.31.
  • John McGrath (JR) swam .42 seconds faster than ever before with his 25.88.
  • Kathleen O’Malley (SR) had two great PR swims in 50 Free, one in the Bonus 50 Free at 27.94 and one leading off a relay at 27.85. Those were PRs by .33 and .42 seconds, respectively.
  • Mary O’Malley (SO) cut .24 seconds from her 50 Back PR leading off a relay.
  • Evan Wilson (JR) went 25.45 in 50 Free after a .15 second PR. Evan also hit a PR in 50 Back leading off a relay, by .07 seconds.
  • Joe Wilson (FR) rocked his chance at the bonus 50 Free with a .49 second PR 25.60.

Next Season, Conference Champions again?

We are graduating 18 seniors.  I’m not sure if this is true, but I suspect it is the most ever in a single season for Seton.  That’s the bad news.

The good news is that we currently have 43 swimmers who are 9th grade and below.  And our class of sophomore girls is loaded.  It is hard to imagine that we won’t be able to recover from this massive graduate rate very quickly.

Our kids aren’t the only ones who graduate.  Our key conference rivals are experiencing some of the same challenges.  Depth has always been Seton’s calling card.  With the depth we have coming up the ranks, I like our chances to repeat as both the Boys and Girls Conference Champions again next year.

But we are also going to need to have another great recruiting year inside the school.  There are plenty of strong swimmers that have either never been on the team or would be great to have back on the team.  Seton Swimming is a great community within Seton School.  Let’s use the off-season to expand that community for next year.

Awards are All That Remain

Coach Dalrymple is coordinating our Awards for Sunday, March 1st  at Seton School starting at 2:00 p.m.  I’m traveling a lot this week and next so I’m not exactly sure what is planned beyond that, but I think it may involve delicious treats.  I’ll put out more details as plans develop.

I’m sure that the awards banquet is the last thing on Coach Dalrymple’s mind right now though.  Please pray for the Dalrymple family.  Mr. Dalrymple’s mother died in Clemson, SC just as we were wrapping up our trip to States.

Final Thoughts

For much of this season, I also spent a lot of time writing about our GEMS: Gratitude, Excellence, Meekness and Sacrifice.  Those are the values that have powered our team toward a commonality of purpose and a mutual support for one another to do always do our best with the gifts that God has provided.  I feel particularly good about the fact that we were able to tap into that power this year.

So even though the season it over, we are still a team.  I look forward to seeing you all support each other for the rest of the year outside the water the way our State Team supported each other this past weekend in the water.

Coach Jim Koehr

Seton Swimming’s G.E.M.S.

What makes Seton Swimming special?

N

Gratitude

“Who has it better than us? Nobody!”

N

Excellence

We focus on better. Good takes care of itself.

N

Meekness

We help our opponents over the bar that we raised by winning

N

Sacrifice

We offer it up. We love all of our teammates.

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