Jamestown and York chasing VHSL state swim championships

Special to the Gazette

Jamestown is expected to contend for both girls and boys team titles this weekend at the Virginia High School League state championships.

Jamestown’s girls, in Class 4, will enter the state meet as four-time defending champions.

But mounting pressure to repeat and new competition in former 3A champion Riverside of Northern Virginia — the Rams moved up to Class 4 following VHSL realignment — present obstacles the Eagles will need to overcome to extend their streak.

“There’s tremendous pressure,” Jamestown coach Molly Sandling said. “Everybody’s watching you, you have a target on your back, and everyone is out to take you down. And when you have done it that many years in a row, it’s always going to be hard to be the first team not to achieve that.

“I think there is a lot of pressure from both outside and inside to keep achieving at that level, which in high school where you have a rotating team where they graduate out and you get new ones in, it’s really hard to stay at that level year after year.”

Despite a younger core than years past, the Jamestown girls were still able to win the 4A region by 191 points over the next-closest contender, Lafayette. Because of her team’s youth, Sandling made it clear that preparation for the state’s biggest stage will be important if her girls are to become five-time defending champs.

“A lot of it will be getting them prepared for the intensity and emotion of a state meet,” Sandling said. “We have to make sure that everybody is focused on what needs to be done.”

Sandling expects her girls to be led by senior Abby Larson, who won the 50-yard freestyle (24.73 seconds) and 100 freestyle (54.36) and anchored two of the relays for the Eagles.

The Jamestown boys are expected to contend as well — they won their region by nearly 100 points — but are extremely young, and many will compete for the first time at the state level.

Jamestown will swim at SwimRVA in Richmond on Saturday.

In Class 3, York was able to secure regional titles in both boys and girls divisions.

The York girls are favorites on the state level and will be expecting big swims out of seniors Danika Katzer and Alex Slayton — who have signed to swim for Tennessee and Virginia Tech, respectively.

The two seniors have been dominant all year, combining for four individual wins in last weekend’s regional meet and leading York’s relays to first-place finishes as well. They could very well repeat in their events this weekend and will be the swimmers to watch.

But Slayton and Katzer are not the only two Falcons who could reach the podium. Because of York’s amount of depth and skill, coach Courtney Kelley doesn’t see why several of her girls can’t secure top-five finishes.

“We’re just deep in girls,” Kelley said. “Every event in the girls, we’re probably going to get a top-five finish, if not more than just one.”

The York boys, on the other hand, are expected to have a tougher path to a team title. Competitors like Hidden Valley and Cave Spring, both of Roanoke, will provide tough competition, and Kelley believes her boys will have to secure wins in the 100 backstroke and butterfly and top the field in the 4x50 free relay to have a shot to win.

York competed Friday evening at SwimRVA in Richmond.

Visit vagazette.com for the latest results from the tournament.

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