Against swim teams from across the country and facing more than a thousand of the nation’s best young swimmers, the Williamsburg Aquatic Club made a splash at the TYR Elite Showcase Classic in Florida last month.
The event, which is hosted annually by USA Swimming and the International Swim Coaches Association, attracts more than 1,000 swimmers ages 13 and younger across the country. Ten swimmers from the Williamsburg Aquatics Club traveled to St. Petersburg for the TYR meet, where according to Coach Betsy Lavin, they performed beyond all expectations.
“We had five kids place in the top 10 in at least one individual event, and two in the top 10 overall for their age group,” said Lavin. “We placed 25th overall as a team, and 16th overall for girls, which is a big leap from last year when we placed 46th overall and 23rd for girls.”
Five of the 10 swimmers from WAC had top 10 finishes in several individual events. Jack Graham placed fourth in both the 500-yard freestyle and the 1,650 yard freestyle, and in the top 10 for the 200-yard freestyle and the 100-yard freestyle.
Gracie Gregory placed third in the 200-yard breaststroke and the 400 yard IM, and fourth in both the 500 and 1,000-yard freestyle. She also finished in the top 10 for the 200-yard butterfly, the 100-yard individual medley, the 100-yard breaststroke and the 200-yard backstroke.
Liam Gregory placed ninth in the 1,650 yard freestyle while Lindsay Hanks placed eighth in the 1,650 yard freestyle.
“Just qualifying is a huge achievement for a lot of young swimmers, to have so many of ours do as well as they did, it’s wonderful,” said Lavin. “They’ve been so motivated, and these kids are so dedicated and come to every practice, and in times like this, it pays off.”
For Elizabeth Gregory, a fifth-grader at Laurel Lane Elementary School, it paid off in the form of eight medals from various events at the meet, including first place in the 50-yard butterfly and the 200-yard individual medley and second in the 500-yard freestyle and 100-yard butterfly. She also placed fourth in the 50 and 200-yard freestyle, fifth in the 100 yard freestyle and sixth in the 100-yard backstroke.
“I like that swimming is a challenging sport, and I have good friends here who keep pushing me,” said Gregory. “I’m very proud, not just of how I did, but how all of us did.”
Even the swimmers who didn’t come home with a medal came away from the competition proud of how they’d performed against some of the nation’s best. Nathan Cummings is an eighth-grader at Berkeley Middle School, who has been swimming with WAC since the sixth grade. He said he was proud to have qualified, much less performed as he did.
“It’s been a goal to qualify for the classic in Florida, it’s been a goal of mine since starting with WAC,” said Cummings. “This was my first year, it was challenging to go up against some of the country’s best swimmers, and I was really happy how I did in the 50 free and the butterfly.”
Though he’ll be too old to return next year, Cummings says he is equally excited to be headed to Lafayette High School in the fall, where he hopes to swim for the school under Coach Harold Baker.
“We have great coaches here, some great teams here, and I’ve learned something from all of them,” Cummings said. “They’ve got a great swim team at Lafayette, and I’m looking forward to continuing to swim there.”
That’s something that coach Lavin knows something about, having been a swimmer for Coach Baker herself.
“It’s one of the best things about swimming here in Williamsburg, that it’s a generational thing,” said Lavin. “We have parents who swam here now watching their kids compete nationally, and this group of kids is doing proud by that tradition.”
Sean CW Korsgaard can be reached at 757-968-1529, by email firstname.lastname@example.org, and on Twitter @SCWKorsgaard.