Last year’s swimming dynamic duo of then Sophomore Lainey Flanagan and Freshman Kaitlyn Sullivan managed to combine to help WCA Eagle Swim post a 6th place finish in the VISAA Championship meet for Division 2 girls teams. They managed this feat without the benefit of double points finishes in the relay events, as there were only 3 varsity eligible female swimmers on the team. With the arrival of 8th grader Delaney Gibbons and newcomer to the team Isabell Comber, the stage is set to potentially do what was unthinkable when the team was started just 4 years ago: win a championship.
Of the five teams above WCA, Seton and Hampton Roads Academy have suffered major losses as a result of graduating seniors. Of the remaining teams, Steward did not have sufficient swimmers to field a relay, and the top swimmers from the remainder do not match up with WCA’s top three swimmer talent. Here’s how the roster shakes up:
Kaitlyn Sullivan, Sophomore (50 Free, 100 Breast, 100 Free, 200IM): An an IM specialist, there is no truly weak element of Sullivan’s swimming repertoire. Kaitlyn last summer accomplished something not many area swimmers can claim by breaking three meet records at this year’s summer swim VPSU championship meet, and placed 8th overall in the 50-yard Freestyle at VISAA States last year and 14th in the 100-yard Breaststroke. Having just turned 15 this past Septemeber, Sullivan is still improving, and could easily exceed those finishes from last year’s championship meet.
Lainey Flanagan, Junior (50 Free, 100 Back, 100 Free, 100 Breast): Lainey began swimming competitively just a few years ago and has become a Club State Championship level swimming in a very short span of time. Her size and length give her the ability to continue to improve and post times that will have her in the hunt in both available events at VISAA States. Her versatility also makes her a huge asset in the relays, where she can, much like Sullivan, swim every stroke at the VISAA Championship caliber level.
Delaney Gibbons, 8th Grade (100 Back, 200 Free, 50 Free, 100 Free): At just 14, Delaney Gibbons joins last years qualifiers to compose a fearsome threesome of talent. Gibbons is a backstroke specialist, and her season best this year in te 100 Backstroke in heavy training conditions would already have placed her 13th in last year’s VISAA Championship meet. She is also a long and relaxed freestyler, giving the Eagle Swim team three high-level performers in the stroke. Gibbons has already broken several of Sullivan’s records on their club team, and if that’s not enough to convince anyone that she will be a major force, she is still not done growing!
Isabell Comber, Junior (50 Free, 100 Free, 100 Back): Isabell is the piece that the Eagle Swim Team has been waiting for. A longtime member of the Queenslake Eagles swim team, Isabell competed and attained the Championship meet level in summer swim. Although she may not yet be ready to qualify for individual events for the VISAA meet, she is exactly what the team needed most: a capable and technically strong 4th relay leg. Very few teams in Division two are equipped with a three swimmer lineup like WCA, so Comber will be able to ride some of their speed to round out what could be a Top 16 and point scoring relay in both the 200 Medley and 200 Free relays. Those points will be the critical deciding factor to the girls’ team’s championship hopes.
The team also has beginner Piper Lamb, a junior, on the varsity squad as well, and will help provide a safety valve in case anything happens with any of the other relay legs. Lamb has shown great improvement already in the team’s first two weeks of practice.
On the JV level, 7th grader Bekah Kish should have a solid season after getting back into the groove with competitive swimming last season. A dogged competitor with a fast motor, we will look forward to seeing her put together high finishes in the team’s JV meets.
All of WCA’s Boy swimmers are younger than sophomore year, but there are many: the squad has more boys now than at any point in its history with 9 swimmers, giving the team 15 swimmers overall. Sophomore Liam McConnell is new to swimming but hopes for a career in the Navy SEALS. He is joined by Chinese freshman sensation Ian Chen, already a solid breaststroker, and freshman and Queenslake Eagle summer swimmer Luca Alberts. In the Middle school, 8th grader Joshua Kish has past year-round swim experience, as does 7th grader Ryan Kailian. 7th Grader Jack Marlowe, new to WCA this year, placed on the medal podium this summer at VPSU Champs in the breaststroke, and is joined by fellow summer swimmer, and three-year team vet Connor Sullivan, a backstroker. Rounding out the team are 7th grader Cillian Clapp, and 6th grader Jonas James, both new to competitive swimming but rapidly improving.
This large group represents what could be a full men’s squad at the varsity level, which could then compete with other teams in dual meets within one or two years.
The Varsity swimmers will debut this Saturday at the St. Christopher/St Catherine Invitational, while the JV swimmers will get their first test the following Saturday at the Norfolk Academy JV Invitational, and again the following Friday night at the St. Christopher/St Catherine JV Relay Meet.