Collegiate, Saint Christopher Capture Virginia Independent Schools (VISSA) State Titles

will browne harvard

Collegiate, Saint Christopher Capture Virginia Independent Schools (VISSA) State Titles

Two Richmond schools are winners yet again at the Virginia Independent Schools Swimming Association state championships. Saturday night at the Christiansburg Aquatic Center, the Saint Christopher boys grabbed their fourth, and Collegiate girls their third, consecutive VISSA swimming and diving titles.

Both winning coaches sounded similar refrains in the victories.

“I told the boys it would come down to the ‘want to’ factor,” said Saints head man and boys swimming coach of the meet Bucka Watson. “They care and swim fast for each other and that was the difference.”

Nowhere was that no more apparent than in Saturday night’s 200 and 400 yard free relays where the Saints dueled against sprint-oriented Norfolk Academy. The Bulldogs won both but St. Chris’ third in the 400 and second place in the 200 finishes were enough to give them the title with 230 points, 17 better than both Trinity Episcopal and Norfolk and 66 clear of fourth place Collegiate.

Cougar coach Mike Peters took a young but seasoned female squad to Christiansburg that swam above seed all meet. The green and gold totaled 343 points to best St. Catherine’s (253), St. Anne’s-Belfield (141) and Trinity (140).

“It was a team effort top to bottom – senior to eighth graders,” said Peters. “We took three eighth graders to the meet and all three scored, carrying on a legacy that is passed down year-to-year. The girls love being around each other and swim fast for each other.”

Collegiate youth was well-served throughout the two days. The Cougar girls won the opening 200 yard medley relay in a 1:45.11 All-American consideration time staffed by backstroker Bella Little, breaststroker 8th grader Savannah Harris, sophomore flyer Emory DeGuenther and freshman anchor Jasper Jones. Jones and DeGuenther were joined on the winning 400 free relay (3:30.07, AA-C) by ninth grader Valentina Linkonis and eighth grader Natalie Tang.

On the distaff side, Collegiate led from the opening relay and expanded the margin throughout the two days. State champions for the Cougars were Little in the 100 yard backstroke (57.34) and DeGuenther in the 200 free (1:49.31, AA-C) and the 500 free (4:56.29, AA-C). Top seed in both events last year as a freshmen, DeGuenther missed the meet when she injured her foot 36 hours before the event.

St. Catherine’s lone winning entry was their 200 free relay where the quartet of Elizabeth Goodwin-Bernie, Mary Stuart-Hawkins, Parker Blair and Sophie Sullivan scored an AA-C time (1:37.05) in topping Collegiate’s squad of Linkonis, Harris, junior Maddie Jewett and Little (1:37.24).

Other Richmonders grabbing state crowns were St. Chris freestyler Alex Gertner in the 200 free (1:41.15) and Trinity’s talented sprinter Patrick Puzon who reprised last year’s 50 free crown in 20.83 (AA-C).

Female of the meet honors went to senior Allie Witdoeckt of Trinity Christian School, a double winner in the 100 butterfly (54.44) and the 100 free (50.83).

Top accolades in the 200 IM (2:03.21) and the 100 breast (1:03.40) went to Oakcrest sophomore Elizabeth Bryan. Potomac second year Kate Douglas claimed the 50 free in 23.35. In diving, Flint Hill senior Michayla Eisenberg topped the field to win the 1-meter competition with a score of 506.70.

Boys Meet

After a tightly bunched first day, St. Christopher’s emerged from a strong Saturday prelim showing that enabled them to hold fast over game pursuers Trinity Episcopal and Norfolk Academy. For winning the 200 IM in 1:47.13 and the 100 back in 47.68 (both AA-A times), Flint Hill senior and N.C. State commit Simon Bermudez was named male swimmer of the meet. Bermudez also led off his relay with a 22.40 back leg and anchored the 200 free relay in a swift 20.95.

St. Anne’s-Belfield junior Will Browne (Harvard) topped the fields in 100 fly (49.34) and the 100 free (44.86) while Trinity Christian’s Will Charlton won a race-long 500 free slugfest over Notre Dame recruit and Collegiate captain Charlie Mayr, 4:33.78 to 4:34.39. In the breaststroke, StoneBridge School’s Gabe Nunziata edged STAB’s Max Moore, 54.49 to 54.94. Diving laurels went to Seton’s Connor Koehr (362.45).

In relay action, Woodberry Forest School won the 200 yard medley relay by .23 over STAB. The Tiger quartet of Rawlings Leachman, Ayrton Moncure, Nate Stein and Julius Davis posted a 1:33.55 to best the STAB tandem of Aiden Zhu, Max Moore, Will Browne and Will Colby.

Norfolk’s 200 free relay of Spencer Thompson, Richard Hope, Carter Whetstine and Blaise VanSlyke led from the beep, posting splits of 21.09. 21.77, 21.27 and 20.55 for a 1:24.68. Those times were just enough to hold off Trinity’s Collum Kelley (22.07), Charlie Welch (21.76), Aidin Muminovic (21.01) and Patrick Puzon (20.17) for first.

In the 400 free relay, it was eventual meet champion St. Christopher’s who led until the final 50 when Bulldog anchor VanSlyke overhauled Edward Johnson with a final 45.47 to 47.52 last 100.

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