Young swimmers set new highs

Published 10:44 pm Thursday, January 31, 2019

Prince Edward County High School’s varsity girls and boys swimming teams ended their 2018-19 regular seasons last Friday with performances that set new high-water marks for what their swimmers can achieve.

“Friday was super, super, super awesome for us,” Prince Edward Head Coach Sarah Fulcher said. “Just about 100 percent of our children swam their fastest times in their events to this season. That was amazing.”

Prince Edward hosted the meet in Hampden-Sydney College’s Leggett Pool. Also competing were Goochland High School, Nandua High School and Appomattox County High School.

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For the girls, Goochland won with 100 points, Nandua finished with 67, the Lady Eagles generated 62 and Appomattox had 49.

For the boys, the Bulldogs won with 102 points, the Nandua Warriors were second with 77, the Raiders scored 63 and the Eagles finished with 26.

“It’s hard when you’re only swimming six boys,” Fulcher said, referring to the size of Prince Edward’s varsity boys team this season.

The school’s swimming program features 18 varsity participants, with 12 of them forming the girls team. The group is quite young and will continue to be next season, but with blossoming talent.

“We’re going to have probably half the team just freshmen and sophomores next year that (is) going to be good,” Fulcher said. “They’re going to start off about where we’re finishing now just because they’re that competitive of a group.”

The program has 11 junior varsity swimmers, four of which will move up to varsity next season.

“So that’s one relay team by itself,” Fulcher said. “That’s kind of the way I look at things. That’s one relay team together, and the four of them have been swimming together this whole season, so in reality, if they continue, they should be crushing things by the time they’re seniors, if not well before.”

The next event for Prince Edward this season is the Virginia High School League (VHSL) Class 2 Region A Championships on Friday, Feb. 7, at Swim RVA in Richmond.

“The way regionals works is each school system is allowed to enter two swimmers or relay teams per event — at least that was last year’s rules,” Fulcher said Monday. “I haven’t received this year’s rules yet, so all I can tell you is based on last year.”

But she said she tries to go through and give as many of the program’s high school-age swimmers the opportunity to compete, starting with the seniors and working her way down.

“If you are within 20 seconds of a competitive time, then it’s a good experience to go swim (at regionals),” she said. “I try not to put anybody in that’s going to be a minute behind somebody, because that’s just embarrassing, but you can knock off 20 seconds of swim time in a year, so who’s to say that the following year, having seen what you could do, you won’t be better? So I’m going to try to fit as many of my high schoolers in to regionals as I can.”

Prince Edward features two primary captains this year.

“Our female captain, Renee Stimpert, qualified automatically for states with her backstroke time Friday,” Fulcher said.

Stimpert, a junior, finished with a time of one minute and 15.44 seconds.

“That absolutely is (a personal record),” Fulcher said. “That’s been her best time that I’ve ever seen … “

The VHSL Class 2 State Championships will be held Friday, Feb. 14, at Swim RVA.

“She’s the only one we have that’s automatically qualified,” Fulcher said, “but that’s what we’re working on this week in practice is trying to reorganize our relays to see if we can come up with the fastest combination in order to go to regionals and earn a spot at states.”

In addition to producing state-qualifying times, the other way to reach states is to place among the top individuals and relay teams at regionals.

“If we can get one of the top-four relay spots, that’d be amazing, but I’m also a realist in that I’m not 100 percent sure it’s going to happen,” Fulcher said. “In our region, we still have Goochland — they move up to (Class 3) next year, and Maggie (L.) Walker (Governor’s School) moves up next year. We’re competing against schools that are way bigger than we are …”

Prince Edward’s other primary captain is senior Preston Sutton.

“This is only his second year swimming, and he has improved his 50 freestyle time by five seconds from the beginning of the season, which is a lot, actually,” Fulcher said. “His best time is 31.08 (seconds).”

Reflecting on Stimpert and Sutton, the coach said, “We asked them to be captains because they’re both very encouraging, good-hearted, uplifting across the board. So it helps bring the team positive vibes at all times.”