Having just finished the last of her eight races for the day at the 24th Annual Kecoughtan Invitational Swim Meet, Atlee sophomore Brittany Wilkerson decided to cool down the only way she knew how. She jumped into the practice pool for a final lap.
No surprise here, as the Atlee team, as well as several representatives from Lee-Davis, Patrick Henry, and Hanover displayed their talent where they feel most at home, in the water, at the Midtown Aquatic Center in Newport News on Saturday.
In team competition, Atlee finished fourth overall, the girls leading the way, placing third with 184 points. The boys placed fourth overall with 174.5 points.
“I am super excited about the meet,” Atlee head coach Karen Seeber said poolside following the competition. “Several of our individuals and relays got state auto-cuts, meaning they can go automatically to states; they don’t have to do that during regionals. This sets our team up very well for states.”
Fueling the Raiders were the boys 400-yard freestyle relay team of Wyatt Grubb, Connor O’Brien, Graham Roper and George Mason University-bound Jesse Burnley, finishing third in a state qualifying time of 3:17.47. Jack Stockhausen joined Burnley, Grubb and Roper to place fourth in the 200-yard medley relay with another state qualifying effort, in 1:38.94. The girls 400-yard freestyle team of Wilkerson, Emily Beaudin, Michele Mackey and Madalyn Murphy finished third in 3:46.91.
Wilkerson said there really is no secret to pacing one’s body to the grueling schedule of a one-day meet.
“You eat, drink, and go rest. That’s what helps us pull it off,” Wilkerson noted.
A Confederate made her presence known in individual competition, as Lee-Davis senior Jennifer Vieni broke a six-year-old meet record in the girls 100-yard freestyle, winning with a time of 52.46 and shaving .41 of a second off the old mark. Vieni fell achingly short of a double victory when she finished second in the 50-yard freestyle final at 24.33, just .04 behind winner Elizabeth Magnusson of Colonial Heights.
“I met Elizabeth last year, as she swims year-round just like I do,” Vieni told the Herald-Progress. “We’re pretty good friends and I knew she was a good sprinter, so we wished each other good luck. I think we helped push each other.”
Their duels in the pool will continue at the Central Region meet Feb. 9 at the NOVA Aquatic Center in far western Henrico and at the State Championships the following weekend in Fairfax.
Grubb, an Atlee junior, captured an individual title when he won the boys 100 butterfly in a photo finish over Nate DaCruz of Cox High School. Grubb finished with a time of 52.18, DaCruz at 52.19.
Other notable performances from the county included Patrick Henry’s Thomas Perkins, finishing seventh in the boys 200 freestyle final (63 swimmers vied for a spot in the eight-man final round); Atlee’s Wilkerson fourth in the girls 200 freestyle final (1:58.08) and third in the girls 500 freestyle (5:11.49); Grubb just missing victory in the boys 200 individual medley (IM), finishing second to Lafayette High School sophomore Carter Kale (1:56.32 to 1:56.63); and Burnley coming in second in the boys 100 freestyle (47.32) as well as third in the boys 50 freestyle at 22.05,
Lee-Davis freshman Hannah Ikenberry had an impressive performance, placing fourth in the girls 100 backstroke in 1:01.59, while Atlee’s Murphy landed third in the girls 100 breaststroke in 1:08.59, and Hanover junior Sarah Browning earned spots in two finals, finishing a strong second in the girls 500 freestyle (5:05.61) while placing sixth in the girls 200 IM final (2:12.38).
The boys distance swimmers represented well as Patrick Henry freshman Scotty Mizelle placed third (4:49.94) and Atlee sophomore Jermey Edwards finished fifth (4:58.31) in the boys 500 freestyle.
In team scoring, Patrick Henry’s boys finished 12th with 70 points, while on the girls side, Lee-Davis placed 11th with 77 points while Hanover was 20th with 31 points.
Though Atlee by far had the strongest team showing at Kecoughtan, depth and experience play a huge role in that reality. Seeber is grateful for both intangibles, as well as for the lessons her swimmers learned Saturday.
“We have to go back, look and see where they are for best times, and see where they will best place for states. That’s where we are now, so we can score even higher at states,” Seeber explained.
Every swimmer from every Hanover County school now knows the benchmarks and expectations that lie ahead if they seek to achieve regional and state glory when the calendar flips to February.