Leah Shackley Continues Meteoric Rise at Richmond Sectionals; Erin Gemmell, Thomas Heilman Look Sharp

Leah Shackley nc state (1)

Leah Shackley Continues Meteoric Rise at Richmond Sectionals; Erin Gemmel, Thomas Heilman Look Sharp

With the summer season just beginning, most of the summer sectional meets are yet to come. But the Eastern Zone Super Sectionals took place last weekend, May 18th-21, in Richmond, and the times were impressive. Unlike prior years in which the Richmond Super Sectionals meet had a smaller field and less competition, this year was different. The meet saw hundreds of swimmers compete, and 12 Eastern Zone Sectional records were set.

There were numerous standout performances at the Collegiate Aquatic Center. One of the leading performers on the women’s side was North Carolina State commit Leah Shackley, out of Blair Regional YMCA. Shackley notched personal bests in the 100-meter backstroke (59.55), 200 back (2:08.42) and 200 butterfly (2:12.41) to win all three events. Shackley also won the 100 fly (58.22), getting within 0.2 of her best time from earlier this month. Shackley’s 200 back time of 2:08.42 ranks her second in the country this season. Shackley is also ranked in the top 15 in the 100 back, 100 fly and 200 fly for American women this season.


Photo Courtesy: Avery Kuhn

Also in attendance was NCAP star Erin Gemmell. Gemmell, a Texas commit, won the 100 freestyle (55.01), 200 free (1:57.11) and 400 free (4:08.11). Gemmell swam season-best times in all three of those events, which sets her up well for the World Championships Trials next month. Gemmell was faster at this meet than this time last year. Meanwhile, UVA commit Anna Moesch from the Greater Somerset County YMCA swam her first long course meet of the season, after returning from surgery this past fall. Moesch was within a second of her best times in 50 and 100 free, winning the 50 free in a time of 25.4.

On the men’s side, standout high school sophomore Thomas Heilman of Cavalier Aquatics went on a tear in Richmond, setting multiple meet records and winning five events. Heilman swam PBs in the 200 IM (2:03.32) and 400 IM (4:25.38), and notched season-best times in the 50 free (22.99), 100 free (50.05), and the 100 fly (52.55). Heilman also won the 200 fly (1:58.84). With only a few weeks until World Trials, Heilman is in good position to contend for international team spots.

Heilman wasn’t the only sophomore with strong swims in Richmond as 15-year-old Nathan Szobota of NOVA of Virginia swam PBs in the 50 free (25.42), 400 free (3:58.46), 800 free (8:18.13), and 400 IM (4:24.49). Szobota swept the distance events, winning the 400, 800, and 1500 freestyles (15:54.99). Szobota made headlines in March of this year when he became the fastest 15-year-old ever in the 1000-yard and 1650-yard freestyles at the NCSA Spring Champs in Orlando. In addition, Greater Somerset YMCA’s Kenny Barnicle, another sophomore, swam best times to win the 100 (56.24) and 200 (2:03.48) backstrokes. Heilman only lost one event over the weekend, and it was to yet another sophomore, Josh Howat of NCAP. Howat swam a time of 22.94 to out-touch Heilman in the 50 free final. That was a personal best time by 0.4 from Howat.


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