By ROB WITHAM
H-P Sports Correspondent
It was fifteen degrees hotter inside the Collegiate School Aquatic Center at SwimRVA in Chesterfield this weekend than it was outside, at least on Saturday. Part of the reason was the unusual weather, but most of it was the rapid pace set by seemingly countless hundreds of swimmers of all sizes, age groups and abilities during two days of competition to end the 2017 Greater Richmond Aquatic League (GRAL) season.
In the league’s biggest division, it would be Burkwood Swim and Racquet Club who would lead the way, victorious in team competition with 1,130 points. Fourth overall, and tops in Division II, were the Marlins of Mechanicsville Recreation Association with 497.5 points.
Tops in Division III, and seventh overall, were the Atlee Gators, scoring 447 points. Kings Charter made the top ten with 368.5 points, good for tenth overall and fourth in Division II. Divisions are based before the season on past performance and team sizes.
Leading the way for champion Burkwood was eight year old Chandler Rose, who was one of only two swimmers to win five different events at Champs. Rose won the Boys 8 and Under 25 Yard Back (17.22), the 100 Yard IM (1:25.98), the 25 Yard Butterfly (16.89), the 50 Yard Freestyle (33.56) and opened the Mixed 100 Yard Medley Relay, which Burkwood won in 1:16.44, aided by Olivia Midgett, Charlie Welsh and Lane Zyglocke.
Jack Hufner and Madison Schmidt were quadruple winners for Burkwood, while Bryce Newton won three events. Two swimmers led their teams with four wins each: Haley Lambert of Ashcreek, and recent Lee-Davis graduate Molly Sheffield of Atlee, concluding her GRAL career as she prepares to swim for Virginia Tech.
Lambert won the Girls 11-12 100 Yard IM (1:04.93), 50 Yard Freestyle (26.11), 50 Yard Butterfly (28.56) and 100 Yard Freestyle (56.64). Two of the wins were by slim margins over Christine Datovech of Ashland, Datovech just .12 of a second behind in the 50 Butterfly, just six-tenths of a second back in the 50 Freestyle.
Sheffield went out on top in the Girls 15-18 100 Yard IM, breaking the meet record set a year earlier by recent Atlee graduate and future North Carolina State swimmer Olivia Fisher, finishing in 58.48. Sara Gaston of Mechanicsville was second in 59.95. Sheffield stormed to victory in the 100 Butterfly. Her time of 55.74 smashed the old Champs record of 57.64 set by Hannah Brinks of Kings Charter back in 2005.
Sheffield returned to set a third record, this time in the 100 Back, finishing in 57.40, breaking the mark of 58.21 set a year ago by Sonora Baker of Mechanicsville. Sheffield held off top qualifier Miranda Fellowes of Hungary Creek, who also broke the old record by finishing second in 57.49. Her final performance was record-setting as well, as Sheffield defeated Gaston by nearly a second in the 50 Yard Butterfly. Her time of 25.98 was exactly a half second better than the old Champs mark of 26.48 set in 2005, also by Brinks.
Triple winners at Champs this year were Camden Byrd of Atlee, Claire Grant and Mattison Grant of Ashland, and Bryce Newton of Burkwood.
For Hanover Country Club, the season has featured big performances by young swimmers with very bright futures. Rawlings Leachman, after setting multiple GRAL records in the 8 and Under division last summer, stepped up to the 9-10 division this year and didn’t miss a beat.
Leachman placed fourth in the Boys 9-10 50 Yard Back and 50 Yard Free, improving his time in the Back by over a half-second. His time of 32.78 in the 50 Yard Fly was good for third place.
Meanwhile, six year old Gareth Hollender turned heads with performances this summer. Hollender shaved over three seconds from his best time in the Boys 8 and Under 100 Yard IM, then knocked off two and a half seconds from his top time in the 25 Butterfly, winning his heat in 20.78, good for ninth overall in the category.
Other winning highlights included Pierce T. Rempe of Ashcreek, who won the Boys 8 and Under 25 Breaststroke in 21.05, Amanda Barnard of The Federal Club, winner in the Girls 9-10 50 Yard Breaststroke (39.11), the Atlee Mixed 9-10 200 Yard Free JV Relay team of Jake Kilpatrick, Luke Tschantre, Alannah Simmons and Isabelle Lindsey, victorious in 2:17.92, the Old Church Mixed 8 and Under 100 Yard Free Varsity Relay, as Keelyn Underdown, Julia LaPrade, Kendall Underdown and Grady Cornwell took home the win in 1:14.11, and Alison Harvey, who captured the Girls 13-14 50 Yard Breaststroke in 32.70.