On February 13-14th, 2009, Seton Swimming hosted the 2009 VSIS State Swimming & Diving Championship at the Freedom Aquatic and Fitness Center in Manassas, VA.  At the meet, Seton swimmers dominated the standings for Division II (small schools) taking the Division II State Championships for both boys and girls.  Seton Swimming also knocked on the door of Division I, with the girls taking 5th overall and the boys taking 6th.  Both the boys and girls were only two points from moving up one more place in the overall standings.  These finishes are the highest ever for Seton Swimming – and we are only graduating one female scoring swimmer!  I already can’t wait for next year.

Not only were our swimmers successful, so was the entire Seton Swimming volunteer organization.  I was repeatedly asked how a small, Division II school like Seton could host a State Championship meet that required over 200 volunteers for a competition with over 400 swimmers.  Well, the answer is that 100% of the families of our 73 swimmers all contributed to the cause in some way.   The most significant contributor was our Team President, Mr. Chris Cook, who was honored at the meet with the VSIS Distinguished Service Award.   And I’m sure that the huge number of families that participated in our concessions effort recognizes the great work of Mrs. Carol Doonis.  I’ve had a steady stream of e-mails from all over the State telling me some variation of “that was the best run State Meet ever”.  It was definitely a proud weekend for Seton’s culture of community service.

One of the best indications of how exciting the meet was can be found in the performances of the swimmers.  The mental part of swimming can be as important as the physical, and our State meet gave swimmers a great opportunity to excel.  In our State Championship meet, 16 of the 22 State swimming records were broken, and several of those were broken multiple times.

But it was the Seton swimmers that made me the most proud.  It seemed like, every time I’d looked up at the scoreboard, I saw another incredible drop in time.  Of our teams 22 swimming records, we broke 8 of them, one by more than 8 seconds!  On the 2nd day of the meet, every single swimmer that swam individually and every relay had a Personal Record (PR) in both preliminaries and finals.  The only exception was Jameson Hill’s preliminary swim in the 500 Free where he was conserving energy for future races.  It’s hard to imagine that someone could swim a 4:36.71 500 Free while trying to conserve energy, but that was Jameson.

Final State Standings

There are 52 schools in VSIS Swimming, and here were the final standings for the top finishers at State Championships:


  1. Catherine’s                        308.50
  2. Trinity Episcopal School 233
  3. Collegiate                         196
  4. Bishop Ireton                  174
  5. Seton School                  172 -Division II Champion

10. Roanoke Catholic         107 – Division II Runner-Up


  1. Collegiate                                     379.5
  2. Fork Union Military Academy 286
  3. Woodberry Forest                     207
  4. Norfolk Academy                      190.5
  5. Stephen/St. Agnes                     142
  6. Seton School                              140-Division II Champion

17. Virginia Episcopal                       20 – Division II Runner-Up

Jameson Hill Broke Two State Records

Jameson Hill has had a good three weeks of high school swimming.  Since January 31st, he:

  • Won two individual State titles by wide margins
  • Broke two State records in the 200 and 500 Free, also by wide margins
  • Swam Automatic All-America qualifying times in the 100, 200 and 500 Free
  • Swam an All-American consideration time in 100 Backstroke
  • won two individual National Catholic High School championships,
  • broke two the National Catholic high school records,
  • was named the National Catholic HS championship Swimmer of the Meet,
  • won four conference championships,
  • set three conference records, and
  • was named the DAC Conference MVP

Not a bad 14 days of work.  I’ve already chronicled his work at previous championships, so here are a few details on his swimming at the State Championships:

  • In the Boys 200 Free, Jameson faced off against an extremely fast field:
    • The 3rd place finisher swam an automatic All-America qualifying time
    • The 2nd place finisher broke the State record by over a second and later won the 100 Free with a :45.31
  • And Jameson took first place by nearly one second! His time of 1:38.59 was a personal record, a team record, a State record and an automatic All-America qualifying time.  The previous state record was set in 2001 by a swimmer that went on to swim at Auburn University, the premier college swimming program at the time.
  • In the 500 Free on the 2nd day, Jameson was even more dominating. In prelims, he cruised the first 300 yards, and then in a single 50 yard stretch, opened up a three body length lead on the eventual bronze medalist.
  • In the 500 Free finals, Jameson took the lead immediately off the blocks and the race was never in question after that. Like the 200 Free, the State finals of the 500 Free was a very face race with the top 3 all swimming All-America qualifying times and the 2nd place finisher breaking the State record.  In spite of the quality of the competition, Jameson took first place by over 4 seconds!
  • His time of 4:29.41 was, once again, a personal record, a team record, a State record and an automatic All-America qualifying time. He broke the state record, set in 2003, by nearly 5 seconds!
  • There’ll be more about Jameson in the relays below, but I’m sure you can imagine that he was a big factor there also.

State Championships are won with Relays

In a championship meet, relays score twice the points of individual events, so doing well in relays is always a key formula in winning.  The Seton relays were sometimes unbelievably good:

  • The most unbelievable relay performance of the meet for Seton was the Girls 400 Free relay of Alex Doonis, Laura Talbott, Carolyn Claybrooks, and Lauren “The Machine” Donohoe.
    • Their best time coming into States was 3:52.27
    • In prelims, the qualified 7th with what I thought at the time was an amazing 3:49.10. That prelims swim broke our 2006 team record set by a relay that featured some of the best female swimmers in Seton history like Jessica Dunn and Katie Planchak.  But they were not nearly done yet.
    • In finals, (I actually have goose bumps as I write this) they dropped another more than 6 seconds to jump up to 4th place with a new team record of 3:42.82! You’ve got to be kidding!
    • How is that possible? How about the following splits, all of four of them far beyond the fastest these girls have ever gone:
      • Alex Doonis lead-off – :55.26!
      • Laura Talbott – :57.38!
      • Carolyn Claybrooks – :56.58!
      • Lauren Donohoe – :53.60!
    • And all four of these girls will be back next year!
  • The Boys 400 Free Relay of Jameson Hill, Connor Cook, Vincent “Catfish” Dunn, and David Basinger was almost as unbelievable:
    • They swam their best time in prelims, going a 3:23.73 to qualify for 9th, just out of the top 8. (Remember, that if you don’t qualify in the top 8, you cannot move up, even if you swim faster in finals).  I was very pleased with their swim, because their previous best time was swum at National Catholics, were they were awesome.
    • In the finals, however, they really got me excited. They went 3:20.62!  Even thought that still resulted in 9th place, it was actually the 6th fastest time swum in the meet!
    • As you can imagine, the splits were super fast:
      • Jameson Hill lead-off – :46.28
      • Connor Cook – :50.57
      • “Catfish” Dunn – :51.71
      • David Basinger – :52.06
    • And like the girls, all four of these guys will be back next season!
    • Perhaps you noticed that the line-up was a bit backwards from what you might expect. One of the many things I’ve learned from Coach Rick Benner over the past few weeks is that, sometimes you can pop a better performance in a relay by mixing up the line-up.  Well, it sure worked this time.  Look at the splits about and consider that Connor’s 100 Free PR is :51.92, Catfish’s PR is :53.40 and David’s PR is :54.42.  Can there be any doubt that great swimming performances are mental?
  • Our Girls 200 Free Relay of Alex Doonis, Cat Rogers, Laura Talbott and Lauren Donohoe took the Bronze medal overall after dropping nearly 3 and half seconds from their previous best.
    • They entered the meet with a PR of 1:44.29, and in prelims, they qualified 4th with a great time of 1:42.73. Everyone swam very fast, particularly Cat Rogers, who split an incredible :25.54 the day after her 14th
    • But it was the finals when they really came to play. They jumped up to the Bronze medal with a new team record 1:40.99!
    • The splits were universally amazing:
      • Alex Doonis lead-off – :24.72
      • Cat Rogers – :25.71
      • Laura Talbott – :26.04
      • Lauren Donohoe – :24.52
    • And again, this entire “A” relay will be back next year!
  • Our Boys 200 Medley Relay of Connor Cook, Daniel Koehr, David Basinger and Jameson Hill moved up to 6th overall after qualifying 7th in prelims.
    • They entered the meet with a PR of 1:44.28 and swam a 1:43.64 in prelims.
    • Then in the finals, they dropped to a 1:43.15 four great splits:
      • Connor Cook’s backstroke :26.27 (that was a .60 second PR!)
      • Daniel Koehr’s breaststroke :28.79
      • David Basinger’s butterfly :26.23
      • Jameson Hill’s freestyle :21.86
    • I previously thought that our team record was virtually unbeatable in this event. Back in 2006, Kevin Koehr, Nevin Cook, Bryan Morch and Sean Koehr went a blazing 1:39.82.  Watching these four swim, and knowing that they are all coming back next season, I’m not so sure anymore.
  • Our Boys 200 Free Relay of Daniel Koehr, Patrick Kenna, Vincent “Catfish” Dunn and David Basinger far exceeded my expectations with a pair of tremendous swims to score 12 points for 11th
    • Without Jameson or Connor, these four went 1:35.17 and came within 2 seconds of our team record in this event
    • As with the other relays, their splits seemed nearly unbelievable – all of them were significantly faster than their 50 Free PRs:
      • Daniel Koehr :24.01 (so close to a :23!)
      • Patrick Kenna :24.24 (great streamlines!)
      • Catfish Dunn :23.96
      • David Basinger :22.96!
    • Remember, we swam a time like that without Jameson or Connor. With all of these guys coming back, I’m going to have tremendous flexibility in relay line-ups next season.
  • Our Girls 200 Medley Relay of Bridget Wunderly, Mary Kate Kenna, Carolyn Claybrooks and Laura Talbott finish 9th overall, just missing the top 8.
    • After qualifying 10th in prelims, the dropped to 9th after finals when the swam a 2:00.03 with the following splits:
      • Bridget’s backstroke           :31.87
      • Mary Kate’s breaststroke :33.28
      • Carolyn’s butterfly           :28.48
      • Laura’s freestyle           :26.40
    • From this relay, we are only graduating Mary Kate Kenna, and I think that, between Cat Rogers and Rachel Lambrecht, we should be in pretty good shape filling that breaststroke leg.

How Many Top-8 Finishes Could Seton Get?

  • Alex Doonis had the meet of her life at States, garnering two top-8 finishes and earning All-State honors:
    • In the 50 Free, Alex took the bronze medal with a personal record :24.83! The top 3 finishers in an event qualify for All-State honors.  This was the first time Alex has ever broken :25 seconds from a flat start – and she’s only a freshman!  You could see above, that she repeated the sub-:25 second performance leading off the 200 Free relay on the 2nd day of the meet, lowering her PR to :24.72!
    • I thought long and hard about whether to swim Alex in 100 Free or 100 Back. After talking to her directly, I went with 100 Back, and boy did that turn out to be a good choice.
      • In prelims, she cut 1.10 seconds from her PR to qualify 2nd with a 1:01.62.
      • In finals, she somehow dropped another 1.11 seconds, swam an amazing 1:00.51, and took 4th place overall in a very fast heat. Only a freshman, Alex is already only a half second behind the great Jessica Dunn’s best times at Seton.
    • Lauren “The Machine” Donohoe also had two top-8 finishes:
      • Our main competition in Division II was Roanoke Catholic. Their best swimmer was in the 50 Free, so I knew if we could get two swimmers ahead of her in that event, combined with good performances from our relays, we’d be set.  Well not only did Alex beat her, so did Lauren.
      • In the 50 Free, Lauren also went under :25 seconds for the first time, swimming a :24.93 to take 5th place overall. Like so many other heats in this meet, this was the fastest I’ve seen, with 5 girls under :25 seconds and two under :24.  Both of the top two finishers beat the State record.
      • The 100 Free was also a very fast heat, and again Lauren was up to the task. She broke :54 for only the 2nd time, but this time, she broke it by a lot.  How about :54.15!  That was also good enough for 5th place overall.  And did you notice that :53.60 anchor split on the 400 Free relay discussed above?  There’s a reason we call her “The Machine”.
    • Senior Mary-Kate Kenna ended her high school career on the highest note I could imagine.
      • On the first night of the meet, MK swam the 200 IM.
        • In prelims, she beat her previous PR by over 1.5 seconds, swam a 2:23.19 and qualified 11th for finals.
        • In finals, she somehow managed to cut another 3 seconds from her PR and moved up to a 10th place overall finish. Her final 200 IM PR for the season was 2:20.16!
        • As it turned out, that swim was just a warm-up for the 2nd night of the meet.
      • On the final night of the meet, she swam the last individual event, and performed in stunning fashion.
        • At prelims that morning, MK swam a 1:12.93 to qualify 7th for the finals
        • Before finals, I saw her bouncing around the pool with a big smile on her face. I could tell she was ready for a great swim.
        • During finals, she jumped up to 6th place with a 09 second PR, swimming a 1:11.84. What a great swim!
      • Mary-Kate, a two-year captain and an assistant coach, is the only member of our State Championship team that we are graduating, and I will definitely miss her smile, her enthusiasm, and her leadership. Next season, she’s going on to swim at St. Vincent’s College in the Pittsburgh area.
    • I sure did enjoy watching Assistant Coach and two year Captain, Connor Cook, get two top-8 individual finishes:
      • In 200 IM, Connor qualified 8th in prelims. In the finals, Connor came ready to play.  He cut 1.6 seconds from his PR, swam a very fast 2:03.04 and ended up 8th overall.
      • The next night, Connor swam 100 Back. Again qualified 8th in the prelims, but a great swim in the finals moved him up to a 7th place overall finish.  His final time was a Personal Record :55.83.
      • I’m looking forward to having Connor back for his senior season next year. There are a lot of swimmers on the team who should be grateful for the coaching they’ve gotten from master-stroke-technician Connor Cook.
    • I know that many of you were unable to stick around to watch Coach Duran’s new Diving team perform between the swimming sessions, but I know she had to be proud when Ann Duran scored 204.75 points to take 8th place overall! Last year, when Ann performed at States, she scored 115.70.  That’s a big improvement!

We Scored A lot of Points with Top-16 Finishes Too

  • I know that you will indulge me as I talk about the incredible meet that Daniel Koehr It is very rare for a high-school only swimmer to score big points in the State championship, and Daniel came within a hair of a top 8 finish!  In individual events, Daniel had two remarkable swims
    • His most remarkable swim came in 100 Breaststroke.
      • Dan’s PR entering the meet was a 1:08.39 which had him seeded barely within the top-16.
      • In prelims, he somehow cut nearly 4 seconds, swam a 1:04.70, and qualified in 9th!
      • But he wasn’t done. I have some great video of Daniel absolutely owning the consolation finals heat.  After dropping another 1.05 seconds, he swam a 1:03.65 and took 9th place overall by more than a second.
      • His finals time was actually the 8th fastest time swum in the meet, but to actually finish in the top-8, you have to qualify in the top-8.
      • To put that time in perspective, in 2005, Nevin Cook won the 100 Breaststroke State Championship with a 1:02.
      • Now I’d love to take full credit for this as his coach, but I suspect there was a bit more to the story. Besides Daniel’s inner-drive and work ethic, which are significant, I think that Coach Rick Benner’s work with all of our breaststrokers at practice on Tuesday morning made a big difference.  Coach Benner is the QDD head coach and Jameson Hill’s guardian up here in Manassas.  He also has coached an Olympic Gold Medalist.  Could it be coincidence that every breaststroker that he worked with dropped multiple seconds in a single meet?
    • I had an idea that Daniel would swim well after I ran the video camera on standby during his entire 200 IM preliminary race. It was a terrible time to blow the videotaping because he lowered his PR from 2:19.65 all the way down to 2:15.00!
  • Bridget Wunderly also had a great meet, with a top-16 finish and a Personal Record.
    • In 100 Fly, Bridget went 1:05.54 to take 15th place overall. She’s only a sophomore!
    • In 100 Back, Bridget swam a PR 1:07.54 and took 20th.
  • You’ve already read about David Basinger’s key role in three relays during States, but did you know he took 12th place overall in Diving too?
  • Many of you probably don’t know Joey Rubin, a sophomore at Seton who dove for the first time with Coach Duran. Well Joey managed to score 35 points to take 10th place overall in Diving.  Next year, I’ll bet he can be in the top-8!

So Many Other Great Swims Were Harbingers of Great Things to Come

  • Freshman Vincent “Catfish” Dunn finally beat his sister Jessica!
    • In 100 Backstroke, Catfish also broke 1:00 for the first time, finishing 20th overall with a :59.70. That is a very fast time for a freshman.
    • Catfish was equally awesome in the 200 Free, where he swam 1:56.91 and finished as the 2nd alternate in 18th
  • Carolyn Claybrooks will score twice individually at next year’s State Championship – that is my prediction.
    • In the 200 Free this year, she took 23rd place with a 2:10.46
    • In the 500 Free, she swam a 44 second PR, went 5:53.43, and took another 23rd place.
  • Freshman Cat Rogers has really been impressive this season. She’s just a natural athlete who has the “Eye of the Tiger”.
    • In time trials at the beginning of this year, Cat swam 100 Breast in 1:25.20. Her PR going into the State Meet was 1:16.77, which was a big drop for her at National Catholics.  At States, she cut another 1.43 seconds and finished as the 1st alternate (17th place overall) with a 1:15.34!  Now that is just crazy.
    • Cat is so versatile, she also competed in Diving. I hear she can play some basketball too?
  • Rachel Lambrecht is not going to leave the Breaststroke duties to Cat alone next season. She also had a great swim in 100 Breast.  Rachel actually cut 1.82 seconds from her PR, swam a very fast 1:15.58 and took 19th overall.  I think we can count on Rachel to score for us at States next year.
  • You’ve already read about Laura Talbott’s great swims in three scoring relays, but she also swam well in 100 Backstroke when she took 22nd overall with a 1:07.60.
  • Patrick Kenna not only delivered the goods with :24.24 split in the 200 Free relay, he also placed 18th overall in Diving.

Can’t Wait for Next Year!

I have a lot of fond memories coaching Seton Swimming, but a disproportionate number of those memories seem to come from States.  The Kevin, Nevin, Bryan and Sean 1:39 Medley Relay in 2006.  Nevin Cook’s State Record in 200 IM last year or his State Championship in Breaststroke by .01 seconds in 2005.  Kevin Koehr’s State Championship backstroke in 2006.  Katie Shipko domination of the 200 and 500 Free in 2001.  Katie Planchak breaking into the top 3 in the 50 Free in 2005.  Jessica Dunn’s All-State backstroke last year.  I could name 20 more.  I guess it is because the big events bring out the best in those who are the best prepared.  You can’t just show up to a meet like States and decide to do well.  Great performances at States start in November – or more often than not, in September.

I think that is what I love about swimming.  It is a microcosm of real life.  I’ve heard it said that great things can happen when great preparation meets great opportunity.  The 2009 State Championship Meet for Seton Swimming was just the latest proof of how true that is.

Coach Koehr

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