Greensprings Gators looking to repeat as VPSU champion

— Timed sporting events like swimming can often be relatively predictable, at least when it comes to narrowing down favorites for team standings. The final meet of the season tends to reflect much of what the athletes accomplished during the regular campaigns.

When many of those swimmers are in elementary or middle school, as they will be in Sunday's Virginia Peninsula Swim Union Championships Meet, prognostication is not entirely a sure thing.

Yes, the Greensprings Gators are four-time defending champions of the meet. And yes, the Gators know that means the rest of the league wants to knock them off their perch. But the combination of a scoring method for the final meet that differs from the regular season and dependence on youthful swimmers will bring drama to the annual season-end celebration, no matter who the favorite is.

"It's always unknown because some of these kids, you don't know what they're going to do," 12th –year Greensprings Gators coach Jenna Heuser said, "especially when they're 6."

"You can't just have power in one age group," said Greensprings swimmer Kylie Johnson, a rising Jamestown High sophomore. "You have to have it all around. It's nice we have a good balance between all the age groups."

The uncertainty lies as much in potential vast improvement in times for the youngest swimmers as it does in them making errors.

The range in age is part of what makes the entire summer swim experience special but particularly for Sunday's meet when each age category, ranging from 6-and-under to 15-18, helps determine the league champion.

Greensprings bested the Kingsmill Sharks by 127 points last season in the Championships Meet after tying with the Queens Lake Eagles and finishing behind the Sharks and the Kingswood Klams in the Division 1 regular season standings.

The Gators were third in the standings this season behind champion Kingswood and second-place Kingsmill.

During the regular-season dual meets, only two swimmers per team can compete for points in each event.

For the championships meets, depth of talent is paramount.

The Gators have certainly had that, though not benefiting from a bevy of Jamestown swimmers this season. Greensprings has no high school seniors on the roster of 105.

"We have a lot of good little kids and a lot of them," said rising Walsingham Academy sophomore Austin Smith. "We have a lot of strong categories. We don't really focus on where is the weakest and where is the strongest. We just focus on it as a team."

"We can have kids that didn't swim for points all year come in the top 10 and score points at this meet," Heuser said.

Heuser complimented her coaching staff that is seven deep including a pair of junior coaches in Johnson and rising Jamestown junior Aiden Francis.

Some of the Gators' other standouts have included Jacob Teer and Britney Denny and siblings Shea and Kallyn Buirski. Kallyn Buirski was one of the stars of last year's season finale, winning three times in the 9-10 age division.

Annually included in the fun for Greensprings is T-Shirt tie-dying night when parents and swimmers join forces to make customized shirts for the Championships Meet. Last year, a Pokemon theme reigned supreme and this season, the shirt features a superhero-style alligator holding a pair of fidget spinners.

The shirt reads, "No matter how you spin it, we will win it."

Midori Pitts, a rising Jamestown freshman, has won it every time out. She joined the team in time for the initial Championships Meet victory four years ago and the backstroke and breaststroke specialist will be looking to contribute to her fifth team title in as many tries on Sunday at Fort Eustis, starting at 8 a.m.

"Coach Jenna is really good at making sure we work on drills," Pitts said, "and just making sure we have fun as a team; be competitive but also have fun at the same time."

Holtzman can be reached by phone at 757-298-5830.

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