655 Swimmers from 50 Teams, Seton Alum Paul Pechie leading the roller coaster cheer, music blasting, kids singing and dancing, Seton and Wakefield Country Day families gathering between sessions at our rental house for fresh lobster and a Chinese food feast, and most importantly, loads of huge PR times from our Swimmers – these were just a few of the highlights from the 2017 VISAA State Swim and Dive Championship hosted by Seton School and Woodberry Forest School at the beautiful Christiansburg Aquatic Center in Christiansburg, VA.
Last weekend (Feb 17-18, 2017), we took 24 swimmers and a like number of parents and siblings from Seton and Wakefield Country Day School into this incredibly fast meet – and swimming I saw from our team was beyond my expectations. Our kids always seem to excel on the big stage every year at States, but even I was amazed by the results. Before the meet, I had no real expectation of earning any of the team awards, but we left with our girls surprisingly winning the Division II State Runner-up and with our boys being recognized by the other coaches with the both the Sportsmanship and Spirit Awards!
Seton co-hosted the meet for seventh time since 2008 and the second time with a very talented group from Woodberry Forest School led by Coach Greg Guldin. I was so proud to watch Bill Dealey working with Ginger Schmidt of Trinity Christian School to manage all of the timing and scoring systems and Charles Seltman who served as one of the Starters and Deck Referees. I was especially proud of the great job Katie Dealey did as assistant Meet Secretary. 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 third time, we tried renting a house off of VRBO so we had a place to gather between sessions for comradery and team meals. Thanks to the leadership of Mrs. Dalrymple, we had wonderful team meals that didn’t require long waits for restaurants to serve drinks and take orders. Every family pitched in to provide meals including the Geiran’s, Griffin’s, Cacketts, Pechie’s, Santschi’s, and Cuccinelli’s. The Miller’s provided a wonderful Saturday night Chinese feast, the Wittlinger’s provided the party (surprise, surprise ;-)), and a special thank you to the Kenna’s and Lobster Maine-ia for supplying fresh caught lobsters and Scallops! I’m quite sure no other team was eating like we were at States this year!
It was also great to see Seton Alumni like Paul Pechie, John Bartolozzi and Kimberly Rector, all students at Virginia Tech, during the course of the weekend. Paul Pechie was a huge hit leading the roller coaster cheer with not just the Seton team, but all of the teams around us. I also really enjoyed watching John Bartolozzi “hold court” with the Seton Mom’s at the house. The kid’s got the gift.
Here’s an excerpt from the scoring of a very exciting meet – particularly on the girl’s side where a nearly 4 second PR in the 200 Medley Relay and a more than 7 second PR in the 400 Free Relay flipped the expected Division II results in our favor (more on that below):
- St. Catherine’s School 285
- Trinity Episcopal School 254
- Madeira School 253
- Collegiate School 231
- Bishop O’Connell 147
- Bishop Ireton 125
- Hampton Roads Academy 103 – Division II Champ
- Seton School 61 – Division II Runner-Up
- Paul VI 57
- John Paul the Great 40
- Trinity Christian School 27
- St. Christopher’s School 301
- Trinity Episcopal School 270
- St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes 256
- Fork Union Military 225
- Collegiate School 161
- Norfolk Academy 153
- Hampton Roads Academy 131 – Division II Champ
- Woodberry Forest 122
- Bishop O’Connell 106
- Potomac School 101
- North Cross School 70 – Division II Runner-Up
- Paul VI 66
- Wakefield School 42
- John Paul the Great 30
- Wakefield Country Day 27
- Trinity Christian School 15
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. For the 6th year in a row, Hampton Roads Academy took the Division II Championship.
It Happened with Anna Kenna and our Girls Relays
As we headed down mid-last week, I was hoping for some great PR swims from our kids, but I wasn’t expecting to bring home much team hardware. That didn’t stop me from lining things up for the best possible chance though.
State Championships for Division II are won with relays because there are so many points available. That is why I entered Mairead Geiran, Reilly Cuccinelli and Dani Flook in all three relays and just one individual event. Unlike Anna Kenna (much more on her later), they weren’t like to score many points individually, but together, they could get our relays into Finals and score a lot of points. That strategy proved its worth from the very first event – and it was aided substantially by a number of lifetime best swims.
The first event on Friday was the Girls 200 Medley Relay where Anna Kenna, Reilly Cuccinelli, Mairead Geiran and Dani Flook entered the meet seeded 16th with a PR 1:58.92. Trinity Christian entered the meet seeded 11th. For those of you paying close attention, you’ll notice that this order is different than the one we’ve swum all season. Reilly Cuccinelli opened the door for the change with a late season surge that dropped her 50 Breaststroke split from 36.40 to 34.91. That enabled me to move Mairead to Fly and Dani to Free, strokes in which they were faster.
In Prelims, our girls qualified 12th with a blazing 1:56.40, beating Trinity Christian for the first time this season – by 1.35 seconds. Reilly dropped again to 33.69 and Mairead had a PR split of 28.14. HRA qualified 10th with a PR 1:55.26.
In the Finals, our girls were on fire! Anna Kenna went out with the 2nd fastest 50 Backstroke split in the entire meet, 27.08, to get us a big lead in the consolation finals. Reilly followed with yet another drop, to 33.42 (that’s 3 seconds faster than her PR split coming into the meet!), then Mairead rocked a PR 27.87, and Dani held on with a very strong swim to out-touch HRA by .03 seconds and jump up to 11th place to score 12 points! We beat HRA! That hasn’t happened since 2011!
Our other big opportunity to score on the first day was in Girls 50 Free where Anna Kenna entered the event seeded 4th at 24.65, qualified 4th after prelims at 24.72, and finished 4th in a very fast Championship Final at 24.51.
Anna scored 15 points on that swim alone, so we finished the first day with HRA, Seton and Trinity Christian in 11th, 12th and 13th place overall, respectively, and 1st, 2nd and 3rd for Division II. The point totals were still tight (43 to 27 to 13), especially considering that Saturday’s events featured two (2) more relays.
After a good night’s sleep, the spirit of the team was sky-high going into Saturday’s prelims. We knew our Girls 200 Free Relay of Mairead Geiran, Julia Rowzie, Reilly Cuccinelli and Dani Flook were going to have to do better than their 18th seed (16 places score) if we were going to stay ahead of the strong sprinters that Trinity Christian was likely to put in the water. In Prelims, our girls dropped from their 1:48.48 seed time to 1:47.11 to qualify 13th – definitely a good start. Mairead led off with a PR 26.34 followed by three more PR splits from Julia, Reilly and Dani. Continuing her trend, Reilly Cuccinelli’s split was 1.71 seconds faster than her previous PR split! She swam an amazing 25.44 – where have you been all my life Reilly!
In Finals, I knew that Trinity Christian had loaded up their 200 Free Relay and we weren’t going to beat them, even had we used Anna here, so I told the girls that we just had to finish close in the standings. Our girls delivered the goods – they repeated those blazing times, dropping another .02 seconds to 1:47.09 to score six (6) points in 14th place – just what the doctor ordered – since Trinity only scored 10 points in 12th place.
Then Anna Kenna had her second crack at an individual Final in 100 Backstroke where she was seeded on top among a packed and very fast field. In Prelims, Anna took it out in 27.56 for the first 50 (the fastest 50 split I’d even seen from her, remember her team record in 50 Back is 27.03) and finished in a very fast 57.21 to qualify 3rd for that evening’s Final. That night, Anna again took it our very fast, this time in 27.55, and brought it home to finish in another very fast 57.27 to claim the Bronze medal and All-State honors. With that swim, Anna scored another 16 points, and the State Runner-up title for Seton was within sight – if we could swim well in the 400 Free Relay.
For the final event and for the first time in the meet, we had a relay actually seeded ahead of Trinity Christian. Our 400 Free Relay of Mairead Geiran, Dani Flook, Reilly Cuccinelli and Anna Kenna came into the meet seeded 14th at 3:52.82 (Note to the reader: note that time, because you are not going to believe the next times I write down here). TCS was seeded 15th and they had to beat us to have a chance.
In Prelims, I almost couldn’t believe what I saw. Mairead Geiran had a great lead-off, keeping us close to HRA and well ahead of TCS. Then Dani swam her best split of the season by 1.21 seconds, followed by Reilly’s PR split of 57.29 and Anna’s PR split of 52.37.
Hold it – let’s rewind the tape here. I casually mentioned Reilly’s 57.29, but you may want to know that her lifetime best split to that moment was 59.53 – she swam 2.24 seconds faster than ever before! And I was even more casual with Anna’s split – 52.37 – are you kidding? Her best split for the season was 53.30 – she swam almost a whole second faster – and she swam a 52!
With those amazing swims, our girls qualified 11th with an incredible 6.06 second PR time of 3.46.76! But they weren’t done.
In Finals, all four girls swam PR splits – again – to score 12 points in 11th place. Their Finals time was an amazing 3:45.47, a time that was 7.35 seconds faster than the best time they swam all season. And the closing act was left to our superstar Anna Kenna who brought the relay home in 52.04. I’m getting goosebumps just typing that time. To put that split in perspective, Anna’s High School PR is 53.85 and our team record, set by Alex Doonis in 2012 while winning the National Catholic High School Championship is 52.91 – in other words, that is really fast!
The Seton Girls were the VISAA Division II State Runner-up for the fourth time to go with their four (4) State Championships since 2006 – and I think there’s a lot more where that came from.
Our Boys Relays Showed What the Future Could Bring
Although I boys relays weren’t able to make it back to Finals, I was very encouraged by the swimming I saw, particularly from the strong group of boys who will be returning next season. I’ve included the grade level of each swimmer I mention so you can see why I’m so encouraged by the ones that are coming back next season:
- Our Boys 400 Free Relays were the most impressive, so I will start with the last event first. We entered the meet with only two of boys able to split a :56 or better (Alex Ceol would have been the third), and we left the meet with six (6) out of the eight (8) boys in our “A” and “B” relays splitting :56! In fact, the time drops were so large, that our “B” relay actually ended up beating our “A” Relay by almost 3 seconds.
- Our “A” Relay of Kevin Geiran (JR), Jerry Dalrymple (8), Drew Dalrymple (FR) and Grant Mantooth (SR) ended up placing 26th overall with two big PR splits from Drew Dalrymple (.52 second PR to split 56.63) and Grant Mantooth (.27 second PR to split 56.46).
- Our “B” Relay of Jack Santschi (8), Dominic Wittlinger (JR), David Flook (FR) and Josh Miller (SR) had four (4) incredibly impressive swims, beginning with 8th grader Jack Santschi lead-off PR 56.60, a time that was 1.44 seconds faster than his previous lifetime best. Then Dominic went 56.87 (1.48 seconds faster than his previous best split), David went 56.55 (2.15 second PR split), and Josh went 56.95 (2.27 second PR split) – that’s a combined time drop for the relay of an incredible 34 seconds!
- Our Boys 200 Free Relay was our highest placing relay.
- Our “A” 200 Free Relay of Grant Mantooth (SR), Drew Dalrymple (FR), Kevin Geiran (JR) and Josh Miller (SR) finished 19th overall, just out of the Consolation Finals. Grant had a .46 second PR on his lead-off (24.13), followed by Drew’s 24.71, Kevin’s 25.26 and Josh’s 24.99.
- Our “B” 200 Free Relay also had some very strong swims including Seamus Koehr’s (JR) lead-off 26.45 (.19 second PR), Jack Santschi’s (8) 25.37, Matthew Kelly’s (SO) 26.69 and Ben Ceol’s (JR) 24.74 anchor leg. Ben’s split was a .45 second PR!
- Our Boys 200 Medley Relay kicked off the meet on the first day a few impressive splits:
- Our “A” 200 Medley Relay of David Flook (FR), Seamus Koehr (JR), Kevin Geiran (JR) and Grant Mantooth (SR) gook 23rd place overall. Seamus Koehr had an tremendous Breaststroke leg, splitting 31.36 on a previous PR split of 32.00. Grant also had a strong 23.59 anchor leg.
- Our “B” 200 Medley Relay of Shane Koehr (FR), Josh Miller (SR), Jerry Dalrymple (8) and Drew Dalrymple (FR) was DQ’d for an early take-off, but that didn’t keep me from being impressed by Shane Koehr’s 31.36 50 Backstroke lead-off, .23 second PR for him.
Lucas DuMez of Wakefield Country Day Came Back Twice!
Among the blue and white stripped Seton rugby shirts was a red and white one. It was worn by Lucas DuMez (SR), who has become one of the most beloved swimmers on the Seton team, even though he swims for our sister team, Wakefield Country Day.
Lucas has seen a Championship Final before, but never has he ended up so high on the medal stand:
- In 100 Fly, Lucas qualified for the Championship Final with the 5th seed after swimming a very fast 53.54 in the Friday Prelims. Then in the Finals on Friday night, Lucas held his seed and took 5th place in the State with a 29.
- On Saturday, in 100 Back Lucas was even more impressive, qualifying for the 6th seed in Finals with a .58 second PR 53.98. Then in Finals, Lucas dropped another .4 seconds in a very fast heat down to 53! He finished in 6th place in the State.
I know all of the good folks at Wakefield Country Day were cheering for Lucas, but it was even more fun for me to watch the entire Seton team at the end of his lane for both races. Everyone seems to love Lucas!
There Were So Many Other Great Swims
Most of our team was in Christiansburg to swim in Relays, but we did have five (5) other individual qualifiers who competed for points, four (4) of them were our top young swimmers who will have many more opportunities to swim at States:
- Reilly Cuccinelli (SR) qualified for both 100 Free and 100 Breast, but because we needed her that 400 Free Relay, she only swam 100 Free – and she really made the most of it. From a flat start, she dropped 2.06 seconds from her PR to finish 23rd overall with a lifetime best 57.47.
- Mairead Geiran (8) took 24th overall in the 200 IM with a solid swim. I’d expect Mairead to score in this event next season. Mairead qualified in six (6) of the eight (8) individual events, but only swam one of them so she could score for us in three (3) relays.
- Caroline Griffin (FR) had a great swim in 100 Back, lowering her PR by .64 seconds to go 1:06.18. That was good enough to put her at 28th place in the State. Because this meet was USA “observed” that time counted for a Junior National cut also! Caroline also swam the 200 IM where she finished 34th.
- Jerry Dalrymple (8) gained some valuable experience as an 8th grader when he qualified in the 500 Free. He ultimately finished in 38th place overall.
- David Flook (FR) also gained valuable experience as a young swimmer on the big stage with a nice swim in the difficult and competitive 200 IM. David finished 29th
We had some really tremendous splits on our Girls “B” relays last weekend too. With many of these swimmers coming back next season, it is getting me sort of excited for the possibilities:
- Our Girls 200 Medley “B” Relay of Caroline Griffin (FR), Ashley Cackett (JR), Maria Tozzi (8) and Julia Rowzie (JR) swam a excellent 2:10.72 led by Maria’s .57 PR 50 Fly split and Julia’s .19 second PR 50 Free split.
- Our Girls 200 Free “B” Relay of Caroline Griffin (FR), Katharine Rowzie (FR), Kathleen O’Malley (FR) and Cat Pechie (SR) featured three freshman who will be the leaders of the future for our team. It also featured some very strong swimming especially Caroline’s huge 1.23 second lead-off PR.
- Our Girls 400 Free “B” Relay of Katharine Rowzie (FR), Ashley Cackett (JR), Kathleen O’Malley (FR) and Julia Rowzie (JR) all swam well. I was particularly pleased with Ashley Cackett’s .82 second PR split of 1:05.86 and Julia Rowzie’s .04 second PR anchor split of 1:03.29.
One unique feature to the meet this year was the ability for kids who had otherwise qualified for the meet to get an extra swim in the Bonus 50 Free event. We had ten (10) qualify to take advantage of that opportunity and six (6) of them hit big PRs:
- Kathleen O’Malley (FR) cut .49 seconds to go 28.69
- Katharine Rowzie (FR) broke the 29 second barrier with a .36 second PR to go 28.97
- Grant Mantooth (SR) ended his career with a lifetime best 50 Free of 24.50, a .09 second PR
- Drew Dalrymple (FR) cut another .14 seconds from his 50 Free PR to go 24.63. That’s a very good time for a freshman
- Jack Santschi (8) lowered his PR by a huge 1.02 seconds. His new PR of 24.88 is very impressive.
- Ben Ceol (JR) dropped .05 seconds to end the season with a 50 Free PR of 25.44.
Next Season, State Champions again?
In the years just prior to this HRA winning streak, Seton won the girls four (4) years in a row and won the boys three (3) years in a row (plus 2006). Since then, our Girls have been runner-up three times….
….But it has been awhile since we have been this close to HRA. I’ve posted the results of the girls meet showing only Seton, Hampton Roads and Trinity Christian. If you look at the grade levels of the swimmers, you will see that we losing seniors Reilly Cuccinelli and Dani Flook, but HRA is losing some seniors too.
Now recall what we saw all season from our fast improving younger swimmers, including a very fast crop of 7th graders like Emily Flynn, Theresa McGrath, and Isabelle Luevano who will be eligible to score next season. If swimmers like Mairead Geiran, Caroline Griffin, the Rowzie girls, Kathleen O’Malley and Ashley Cackett continue to improve, if some of our older girls come back to the team, and if we can find a breaststroker who can split :33 or better in Medley and another sprinter or two (or three) who can split :25 in 50 Free, we could win this thing next year!
Does anyone reading this blog who want to be one of those girls?
Awards are All That Remain
Mrs. Dalrymple is coordinating our Awards for Friday, March 3rd at Seton School starting at 6:00 p.m. I know she has a Lenten Soup Supper planned featuring seafood chowders from Lobster Maine-ia. 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 ice cream. I’ll put out more details as plans develop.
It certainly has been another great season for Seton, even if it was different from some past years – I’m quite encouraged by our future here. I’ve written in past blogs of the great joy that comes from achieving things that you never thought possible by working hard, believing in yourself and taking a risk. I saw countless examples of that this season, and I’ll tell you true – you swimmers are not the only one who get great joy out of it.
At the end of recent seasons, I also spent a lot of time writing about the power of being a team that has a commonality of purpose, which mutually supports one another, that identifies with each other’s struggles, and that encourages one another to do their best. I feel particularly good about the fact that we were able to tap into that power this year – and the results speak for themselves.
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