It didn’t look pretty, particularly by the standards Seton has set for hosting swim meets over the past two (2) decades, but the families of Seton rallied to put together the first meet this season – anywhere in all of the VISAA – our annual Time Trials meet at the Fitch Warrenton Aquatic and Recreation Facility (WARF).

With most VISAA and DAC schools taking the easy road by just cancelling their swimming programs through at least January, we have persevered to offer 106 kids the opportunity to experience the joys, the challenges, and the life lessons that come with competitive swimming.

I was so proud of you kids, because it would have been much easier to ignore all the rules that we had to follow to be allowed to have this meet at all.  Because we must use government-owned facilities to practice and compete, we have to choose between following all of their rules or not swimming at all – and we want to swim!

As a sampling of the rules that I had to receive, absorb, and implement were multi-page guideline packets from the Town of Warrenton, George Mason University, VISAA “Back to Play”, USA Swimming and, of course, my friend and mentor Governor Northam 😉  No kidding, I had six (6) full rolls of painter’s tape laid down on the deck.  (I’m still sore Sunday morning from bending over for three hours with this 57-year old Dad bod).  “Karen” was indeed watching for a way to shut our team down, and you swimmers gave her nothing!

I was so thankful for the way the WARF management, including Parks and Rec Director Tommy Cureton and Aquatics Coordinator Graham Grosvenor, worked with me to help make this happen.  It would have been much easier for them to take the easy road too – but they did not.   I love living in Warrenton.

I was also quite proud of the way you all handled our training on the National Anthem.  With seven (7) sons who are/were/are training to be military officers and as an avid student of American history, I take this stuff very seriously.  I was very pleased to see that you all do too.  For you parents who missed my talk before the meet, you can see a version of it in another of my blog posts:

The Seton Community Rallied

When I got home on Friday night, I was a whipped puppy and just bee-lined for my bed.  As I lay there before falling asleep, I was overcome with gratitude for the way our Seton community has rallied to make this season possible so far.  The list of people who really stepped up is too long to detail here, so forgive me if I just mention a few who took on big areas of responsibility for this meet:

  • Bill Dealey is a force of nature behind the scoring table. Knowing that we would be allowed a limited number of timers this season, and always looking to implement more technology to make our meets more efficient, he introduced Dolphin electronic stop watches that automatically communicate with the computer.  What other schools, public or private, have three level of electronic timing at their regular season meets?
  • Pat Haggerty has taken the job of Head Official to a new level for Seton. Under Pat’s leadership, we will have ten (10) or twelve (12) trained officials for the season and be able to host nearly any size meet with no help at all from the other participating schools.  Being even more self-sufficient than normal is going to be key to providing a season for our kids this year.
  • Will Waldron has taken on the responsibility of Head Timer and Head Timer Recruiter. I was fairly overwhelmed this past week with things well beyond swimming, so I was very pleased that Will was so proactive in getting our timers together.
  • Alexandra Luevano took over one of the toughest jobs of the entire meet – Clerk of the Course. For those of you who have ever been around High School Swimming, you know that in normal circumstances, there is no such thing as a Clerk of the Course for a high school meet.  I felt like we needed it though to meet the requirements to control the flow of kids in the limited space behind the blocks.  With the team areas so spread out and 49 new swimmers on the team this year, it turned out to be much harder than I anticipated – but Alexandra put her best Mom-skills to work and herded the cats.
  • The Coaches, including John Halisky, Jerry Zadnik, Ross Palazzo, Linda Byers, Patrick Dealey and Seamus Koehr were invaluable to our team on Friday night. Kids who are in a meet for the very first time in their lives are understandably anxious because they do not yet realize that what we are asking is well within their capability.  Helping kids overcome this anxiety and push themselves outside of their comfort zone is a big part of what we are doing at Seton Swimming – and I saw these great coaches helping many of our kids through this on Friday night.  Coach Halisky was particularly wonderful.
    • I know some of you parents who are new to swimming are equally anxious. Just trust us here and let it play out.  These sometimes-painful steps are very important in the life of a child.
    • For some encouragement, I will point you anxious parents to two resources on the web site:
    • We are incredibly blessed to have the coaching staff that we do at Seton.

Normally, I wouldn’t lead off my blog with so much discussion about the adults, but for all of you swimmers who are reading this, I want you to see how lucky you are to have parents who are willing to make sure you have the opportunity to have a season this year.  Gratitude is the first point in our GEMS for a reason.

What a Great Set of Captains and Managers We Have This Season!

With 106 kids in the program, the team would be impossible to manage without strong student leadership – and boy do we have some strong student leadership on the team this season.  In fact, they were so strong at recruiting, they actually helped create this wonderful problem we have in the first place!

To help manage this number of swimmers on Friday night, I broke our team up into five (5) sub-teams and put a pair of Captains in charge of each sub-team.  I was so impressed with the way Ceili Koehr (JR), Mary O’Malley (JR), Teresa Bingham (JR), Lily Byers (JR), Liam Kellogg (SR), Isabelle Luevano (JR), Jerry Dalrymple (SR), Virginia Hartung (SR) and Evan Wilson (SR) handled their leadership responsibilities.

I was also impressed with our new Team Managers Sofie Harangozo, Wystan Byers and Ellie Moore.  Like the Captains, the thing that impressed me most was that they did not wait to be told what to do.  And when they did not know what to do, they found me and asked, “What can we do next?”.

Leaders of anything, whether it be a swim team, a school, a business, or even a family, absolutely LOVE that question!

 Now, let’s talk about some great performances in the pool.

 Up and Coming Swimmers to Watch

Because of space limitations at the Fitch WARF, several of our older swimmers did not swim on Friday night.  That turned out to be a good thing, because it allowed the younger swimmers on our team to give me a glimpse of the future – and it is looking like quite a future!

  • On the Boy’s side, I was very excited to see some of these returning sophomores, and younger, show what another year of physical development and training have brought:
    • Joe Wilson (SO) rocked on Friday night! In only the 2nd week of the season, he went 55.33 in 100 Free, 1.98 seconds faster than his PR from last season and easily the fastest entry in the meet.  Boy, he looked strong!  Joe also dropped 1.45 seconds in 100 Back and 6.99 seconds in 100 Breast to take another 1st and 2nd, respectively.
    • Nathan Luevano (SO) was right with Joe, particularly after his 1st place finish in 100 Breaststroke and his .55 second PR in 100 Back. It is going to be fun to watch Nathan and Joe push each other to ever higher levels of excellence over the next three (3) years.
    • JJ Brox (SO) and Joey Dealey (SO), another pair of sophomores, look to round out a solid core from this class that will lead the Seton Boys’ team to more DAC Championships.
      • JJ Brox showed me that he can score in nearly any event into which I put him.
      • And Joey Dealey showed tremendous improvement already, particularly in 100 Free where he dropped 1.56 seconds to go 1:03.49. I’d expect both of these boys to be under 1:00 in 100 Free by the end of the season.
    • David Hudson (FR) was a stand-out among the freshmen. David took 3rd of 4th in every event with three big PRs: 2.21 seconds in 100 Free, 1.90 seconds in 100 Back, and .46 seconds on 100 Breast are all huge drops.  David has clearly gotten bigger and stronger since last winter – keep feeding him Gio!
    • Peter Konstanty (FR), Mick Fioramonti (FR), Ryan Beltran (FR), Nicolas Nagurny (FR), Jed Albin (FR), Chris Lynch (FR), Joey Munsell (FR), and Dominic Miller (8) are coalescing into a large and very strong leadership group in our freshman class.
      • Peter Konstanty dropped a total of 10.99 seconds across his three events – amazing!
      • Mick Fioramonti cut 1.45 seconds from his 100 Free PR and 2.57 seconds from his 100 Breast PR.
      • In three events, Ryan Beltran dropped an unbelievable 14.36 seconds!
      • Nicolas Nagurny, new the team, showed me how strong he can be. Once we spend some time with his strokes, that kid is going to fast!
      • Jed Albin cut a total of 32.83 seconds from three PRs, including a 24.11 second drop in 100 Breaststroke!
      • Chris Lynch cut 10.44 seconds from his Breaststroke and another 3.61 seconds from his 100 Free and 100 Backstroke.
      • And Momma Cathy Munsell has clearly been feeding Joey Munsell over the summer. He’s come back bigger and stronger than ever, and it showed with a big 6.21 second drop in 100 Free and a 7.22 second drop in 100 Breaststroke.
    • Connor Koehr (8), Max Wilson (8), Michael Brox (8), Liam Halisky (8), Seth Kellogg (8) and Peter Hartung (8) are emerging as the leaders of the largest class on our team, the 8th
      • Max Wilson and Connor Koehr traded back and forth for honors as the highest finishing 8th graders, and both swam big PRs in all three of their events. Max even finished as high as 4th in 100 Backstroke!
      • Michael Brox showed massive improvement, dropping a total of 28.12 seconds from three previous PRs, as did Seth Kellogg with a total drop of 20.96 seconds, and Liam Halisky with a total drop of 13.94 seconds!
      • Peter Hartung has come back nearly unrecognizable as a swimmer this season. How in the heck to you drop 51.37 seconds across only three (3) events?  Wow!  Peter gets the award for the largest total time drop on the team during this meet!
    • And finally, from the new 7th grade class, I saw loads of promise, particularly from Josh Fioramonti (7), Greg Bauer (7), and Kevin Norton (7)
  • The Girl’s side of the team may be arguably even more exciting, particularly with seven (7) new girls on the team that are going to have an almost immediate impact.
    • It’s going to be fun having some good-natured banter with the Trinity Christian Moms as they wonder: “Where did Lucy Garvey (JR), Clara Condon (8), Angie Testani (8), Kateri Mantooth (SO), Jacqueline Oswald (SO), Teresa Mosimann (SR) and Anastasia Garvey (7) come from?” I remember when we last had a big influx of new girls like this in 2007.  That one ended with VISAA Division II State Championships in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.
      • Lucy Garvey (JR) has come home to Seton after moving from Renaissance Montessori School (founded and run by her father, Sean Garvey) to John Paul the Great. For this season and for reasons beyond swimming, I’m so pleased that the Garvey family is at Seton.  Lucy swam so well in 100 Free and 100 Back that she hit the National Catholic cut in the former and the State cut in the later – already!
      • The two new 8th graders on the team are already demonstrating that they are going to be competitive at the State-level in short order:
        • Clara Condon (8), the daughter of former Seton Swimmer Katie (Pretz) Condon and the granddaughter of the “Godmother of Seton Swimming” Joanne Pretz, crushed both the State and National Catholic cut in 100 Breaststroke with a very fast 1:13.53. But the biggest thing I saw from Clara is that she is a five (5) stroke swimmer, with the 5th stroke being underwater body dolphin.  Young Clara had an impressive night.
        • Angie Testani (8) also had an extremely impressive night also crushing the State and National Catholic cut in 100 Breaststroke.  I know from the USA web site that Angie has been as fast as 1:10.12 in 100 Breaststroke – an amazing time for a girl her age.  It is probably worth noting that our team record for Girl’s 100 Breaststroke was set by Cat Rogers in 2012 at 1:07.70.  I have a strong hunch that I’m going to be replacing that panel on our record board multiple times over the next five (5) years as Angie and Clara keep driving that record even lower.  Angie also swam substantially faster than her best USA times in both 100 Free (by 3.17 seconds) and in 100 Back (by 4.93 seconds) which made sense to me given her obvious feel for the water.  She also got to swim 50 Fly twice in a row 😉
      • Kateri Mantooth (SO) has joined the team for the first time, following in the footsteps of her older brother Grant who swam for Seton between 2015 and 2017. I was very impressed with her fluid strokes, particularly her freestyle and butterfly.  Kateri is going to score a lot of points for Seton over the next three (3) years.
      • Jacqueline Oswald (SO) has never been on the team before. I remember standing next to Coach Mulhern at practice asking, “Who’s that?  She’s pretty fast!”.  It turned out to be Jacqueline.
      • Teresa Mosimann (SR) is from a family that is very familiar with Seton Swimming since her siblings Monica, James and Paul all swam in years past. I was so excited to see her not miss out on this experience by joining as a senior.  From what I saw on Friday night, she’s going to be an impact player for Seton this year.  Welcome back Mosimanns!
      • Anastasia Garvey (7) is not eligible to score this season as a 7th grader, but if she were eligible, she would already be one of our better swimmers. You don’t find many 7th graders that can go 1:15.93 in 100 Free, 1:22.91 in 100 Back, 1:31.86 in 100 Breaststroke and 36.92 in 50 Fly.  So, it looks like Lucy is not going to be the only Garvey impacting the competitive prospects for Seton over the new few years!
    • We also had a big group of returning young swimmers who showed how deep we are going to be on the girl’s side:
      • That group was led by two (2) more 8th graders that will add to an already loaded 8th grade class on our girls’ team:
        • Lucy Pennefather (8) was amazing, dropping a total of 20.04 seconds across her Free, Back and Breaststroke events. I was blown away by her 1:07.29 100 Free which was 8.51 seconds faster than her PR from last year.  Watch out for Lucy!
        • Elodie Brox (8) cut a total of 17.35 seconds from all three of her PRs, with the largest in 100 Back at 10.10 seconds! I loved to see her ability to swim every stroke, an important part of our philosophy at Seton Swimming.
      • Our Freshman class returns three (3) standout girls, Maggie Gibbons (FR), Ava Hudson (FR) and Madelyn Zadnik (FR).
        • Maggie Gibbons (FR) is a returning State Meet qualifier whose most impressive swim on Friday was her 2.01 second PR in 100 Free.
        • Ava Hudson (FR) had three (3) top-10 finishes including a 5th place in 100 Back and a 1.84 second PR in 100 Free.
        • Madelyn Zadnik (FR) showed that she’s come back ready for a great season. I missed her Breaststroke swim, but I did see her 1.22 second PR in 100 Back.
      • Amelie Halisky (SO) showed that she will be able to score for Seton this season, particularly with that 1.67 second PR in 100 Back that placed 7th in the meet. Amelie also had PRs in 100 Free (by 3.76 seconds) and in 100 Breast (by .74 seconds).
      • Mary Clare Waldron (JR) returns for her Junior year after her All-Conference breaststroke performance last season at the Conference Champs Meet. I was pleased to see Clare do so well in backstroke where she dropped 5.45 seconds, and I am particularly excited to see what Clare can do off the Diving board this season – she’s a natural.

Even This Early, There Were 83 New Personal Records (PRs)

With over 100 kids on the team, it is not possible to mention every single kid every week, but I will assure you of this – if you swim a PR, you will get highlighted in this blog!  It’s not about good, it’s about better – and that is what I want to recognize.

That is why it was so important for everyone who possibly could to get some sort of starting time against which I can measure progress.  One of the things that make Seton Swimming different from our competition is the level of improvement that we see every year from swimmers of all levels.  Last year, we had 694 PRs for the season – I know that number because it is the single most important metric of success to me.

Here are the swimmers who I have not already mentioned who can already claim one or more PRs on the season:

  • Julia Atkinson (FR) has become my go-to demonstrator at practice. Her fluidity during stroke drills and graceful lines in the water are certainly going to translate into faster swimming – as they did on Friday with her 7.94 second PR in 100 Back.
  • Meg Blanchette (8) brought her telltale Blanchette joy to the meet and swam three (3) PRs! How about a 3.50 second drop in 100 Back, a 5.95 second drop in 100 Breast, and a .87 second drop in 50 Fly?
  • Emma Catabui (JR) had two big new PRs in 100 Breaststroke by 8.29 seconds and in 100 Back by 1.09 seconds. You may also want to watch out for Emma off the Diving board!
  • Lucy Cunningham (8) looked strong on Friday, particularly in 100 Back where she cut .72 seconds from her PR.
  • Kyle Da Re (SR) had two huge drops. How about a 14.26 second PR in 100 Back and a 13.95 second PR in 100 Free?
  • Haley Fifield (8) brought that joyful smile with her on Friday and used it to propel herself to a 2.04 second PR in 100 Breast.
  • Amelia Geary (FR) was great, swimming PRs in all four (4) of her events. She had an 11.18 second drop in 100 Back, a 4.24 second drop in 50 Fly, a 3.27 second drop in 100 Free, and a 1.07 second drop in 100 Breaststroke.
  • Moira Haggerty (SO), a returning Most Improved Swimmer, swam well again on Friday night, cutting another 2.37 seconds from her PR in 100 Back.
  • Orla Haggerty (8) didn’t just do a great job singing the National Anthem. She also had a .38 second PR in 100 Free.
  • Patrick Hartung (SO) had two new PRs, one in 100 Back by a huge 6.10 seconds and one in 100 Breaststroke by .16 seconds.
  • Mary Catherine Hurley (8) had three excellent swims, particularly her 1:14.49 100 Freestyle, a .51 second PR.
  • Shannon O’Malley (8) looked good, coming within .05 seconds of a PR in 100 Free – very good for this early in the season.
  • Cate Waldron (FR) dropped a whopping 8.31 seconds in 100 Back!
  • Rose Waldron (8) had three big PRs including a 3.68 second drop in 100 Free, a 2.54 second drop in 100 Back, and a 6.07 second drop in 100 Breast.

It’s Not About Good, It’s about the Joy of Getting Better

I found it very interesting that Sunday morning’s Gospel at Mass was my favorite Gospel reading – the Parable of the Talents [Matt 25:14-30].  I guess the Holy Spirit knew that I had to finish my blog after Mass 😉  This parable is the Biblical basis for the E in our GEMS – Excellence: It’s not about good, it’s about better.

Of course, I like fast swimming – what coach doesn’t.  But what I like even more is faster swimming.  And the beauty of that is that everyone on the team can get faster, no matter how many “talents” you start with.

And I now have 20 years of experience that tells me if we all swim PRs across the course of a season, the winning takes care of itself.  That is why I focus so hard on Personal Records (PRs).  Let’s double the talents that the Lord has given us!

We have 49 swimmers on the team who have never been on the Seton team before – amazing!  Especially now that I am coaching some of them more personally on Wednesday and Friday mornings, I am starting to get to know some of them better.

I just love it when a kid, who has never tried something before or who knows that they have a lot of opportunity to improve, just jumps in and does the best they can – whatever that is.  And there are some kids who do it with a real joy that I find personally invigorating.  It gets me up on early winter mornings.

Here are some of those great kids who are learning to “Come, share your [Coach’s] joy”:

  • Is there anyone who doesn’t like being around Kevin Orellana (JR)? I just met the guy, but I already suspect the answer is “no”.  Kevin has no experience at all swimming at the competitive level.  I’m not even sure he’s had swimming lessons, but on Friday night, he went up to the blocks to swim 100 Free, 100 Back and 100 Breast with exactly the attitude I was hoping for: “I’ll just do the best I can, whatever that is, and then improve from there.”  I think we would all do well to be just a bit more like Kevin.
  • I’m having an awful lot of fun with the influx of new Junior and Sophomore girls that we have on the team. It is so great to see the way these girls bring so much joy to a sport that is completely new to most of them.  So, thank you to Rebekah DeWolf (JR), Emma Brox (JR), Theresa Byers (JR), Jacinta Gonzalez (JR), Sophia Kanazeh (JR), Claire McCardell (JR), Claire Witter (JR), Jenna Novecosky (SO), Emma Reynolds (SO) and Olivia Sayani (SO) for making me smile each morning.  Your desire to improve is obvious and drives me to be a better coach for you.
  • Ben Osilka (SO) has never swum competitively before, even on a summer team, but that did not stop him from trying on Friday night even though it was far outside of his comfort zone. Once I saw him swim though, it confirmed what I already knew – that he could do it and that he can become a good swimmer.  In fact, after watching his backstroke, I found it hard to believe that he’s never swum competitively before.  It looked very natural.  Good job not “burying that Talent” Ben!
  • Like Ben, we have a large group of new younger swimmers who were clearly feeling anxiety about publicly swimming in 100-yard events at, what in many cases, was their first swim meet ever. I am so pleased that these young swimmers overcame their fear and did not “bury their Talent” by failing to at least try.  Some of those future great swimmers included Molly Bauer (8), Lucia (8) and Marianna Bingham, Nora Blanchette (7), Elizabeth Francis (8), Christian Ghering (7), Max Gonzalez (8), Sophia Halisky, Gabe Hambleton (7), Monica Hartung (7), Shane Hudson, Daniel Hurley (7), Kieran Kelly (8), Colette Kramer (7), Aidan McCardell (7), Zach Moore (FR), Anthony Morales (7), Mary Catherine Munsell (7), Mary Claire Osilka (7), Jojo Vander Woude (8), and Christina Witter (7)

 No Spectators?

For nearly every obstacle, there is a possible opportunity – if you look for one.

I certainly understand the concern of parents that we cannot allow spectators at our meets.  I tried, believe me, but it is the pools, not me, who are not allowing spectators at our meets.  But with the help of our very own Paul Fifield, who runs his own video production company and does a lot of work with EWTN, we are hatching a plan.

Imagine a two-camera live stream on the Seton Swimming Highlights YouTube Channel of every meet, with in-screen graphics of swimmer lane assignments and results and with real time color commentary by the Coach.  Now further imagine that Coach Koehr makes an arrangement with a local bar or restaurant like City Tavern near All Saints so that parents can enjoy an afternoon of watching a live streamed swim meet with an icy cold one and some wings.  We could even invite other parents from the participating teams.

It is not a Saturday afternoon with Notre Dame football, but it would be the next best thing to being at the meet in person – and in some obvious ways, it might even be better.

Stay tuned to see if Paul, Bill Dealey, and I can pull this off.  Ideas to make this plan even better are welcomed – let’s find the opportunity here.

Competition in the Delaney Athletic Conference

Yes, I saw the announcement right before our meet that our Governor has once again chosen to expand his powers to restrict our most basic 1st Amendment rights to assemble and to practice our religion.  I do not yet know how his latest overreach will impact our ability to provide for the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being of our swimmers, but assuming the Freedom Center continues to let us swim, and with support from Mr. Vander Woude, I have succeeded in securing a DAC Conference season for Seton Swimming.  Thank you Mr. Vander Woude!

If you look at our Meet Calendar, we now have Trinity Christian, Fredericksburg Christian, and Randolph-Macon Academy on our schedule – enough teams to make for a DAC Conference schedule.  Mr. Vander Woude is also working with me to possibly add Fresta Valley.

Fredericksburg Academy, Highland and Wakefield are all declining to allow their kids to swim until at least January, so who knows if we will see them. If we do not, it will be ashamed for their kids, but we are going to rock on without them and have a great season anyway.

One Final Thought on Communication

I’m a parent of kids who play other sports, so I certainly know how hard it is to keep up with e-mails from Coaches, particularly e-mails with loads of detailed instructions.  In this season where the logistics of everything we do are complicated significantly, it must be even harder for you.

One thing that was hard for me on Friday night was the number of kids who arrived with no idea of what they were supposed to do or where they were supposed to go.  Unlike the first practice, I was simply not able to go to Seton and have a lunchtime meeting directly with the kids – so I had to rely on e-mail and the web site.

I also understand that not every parent is comfortable with their child having their own e-mail address.  Parents are the primary educators of their kids – I’m with you – so no problem there if that is what you have decided for your family.  But if you have decided that, can I ask that you print out the information for you children or otherwise make sure they see it?

As I work to help you grow your children into self-reliant adults, I want to be able to hold all of them accountable for knowing when and where they are supposed to be for practice and for meets, and I want to hold them accountable for actually being there.  “My Mom didn’t wake me up” or “My Mom didn’t tell me” are not excuses that I accept for a middle or high school aged kids who should be self-reliant enough to get where they need to be on time.

So parents, please help me to help you to grow your children in self-reliance and responsibility by ensuring that they have access to all of the information that I am providing.

See you all at practice on Monday.  We are almost done with Efficient Freestyle so don’t miss!

Coach Jim Koehr

Click to access the login or register cheese