The Virginia Peninsula Swim Union championship meet marked the end of another year of summer swim in Williamsburg, with more than 650 kids taking to the water at the Williamsburg Indoor Sports Complex on Aug. 3. For the VPSU, it also marks 50 years since the organization started in 1969.
For the second year in a row, the Kingsmill Sharks took first place in the event, more than 200 points ahead of the Kingswood Klams, who edged out the Greensprings Gators for second place. The Sharks also won their division, undefeated for the second year in a row.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled about how the kids did this summer, or more proud,” Sharks co-President Kara Burrows said. “A lot of things came together, our coach Matt Peters is great, we have kids who swim year-round, but even the kids who don’t swim the rest of the year gave it everything they had this summer.”
The victory has some added meaning for Burrows for two reasons: her son Carter played a part in seeing the Sharks take first place, winning the 13-14 boys 50-meter backstroke and the 200 medley relay alongside Jorge Oquendo, Julian Montes and Will McWard; and she and co-president Lia Dossin are both stepping down after 10 years leading the team.
After 10 years, Burrows thinks she has an idea for just what it is that makes swimming such a big deal here in Williamsburg.
“We have a lot of pools, but more than that we have a lot of kids, and summer swim offers something for everybody, whether its a chance to keep in shape in the offseason, a chance to make friends, or just to cool off during the summer,” Burrows said. “It offers just the right balance of competition and friendliness and gives the kids something to do in the mornings.”
What began five decades ago as an effort led by Janet Baker to start some summer swim teams in the area, the VPSU had to include several teams from Newport News to fill the ranks. Today, more than 1,800 kids participate across 20 neighborhood teams in Williamsburg in the VPSU, many of whom swim year-round.
For others, summer swim leaves an impression that lasts a lifetime. One of those first swimmers 50 years ago was Janet’s son Harold Baker, who now coaches several local swim teams year-round, including the Kingswood Klams in the summer.
But for swimmers like the Wellington Waves’s Matthew Keithley, who came away from this year’s championship meet with four medals — including breaking his own team records in the 50-meter breaststroke and 50-meter backstroke — they’re just enjoying the chance to compete and make some friends along the way.
“It keeps you fit, keeps you cool, and it has a different pace to it than year-round swimming does,” Matthew said. “I’ve been doing this since I was a kid, and it hasn’t stopped being fun yet.”
Sean CW Korsgaard can be reached at 757-968-1529, by email email@example.com, and on Twitter @SCWKorsgaard.