By Drew Bledsoe
At 6:30 a.m. on November 5, 2012, the Western Albemarle High School swimming and diving teams opened a new era in their short but incredibly successful history when they began practicing at their new home, the Crozet Bubble. The team, after years of practicing late at night in the Fairview dome on the north side of Charlottesville, finally had a Crozet place to call home. The change in practice time and facilities led a record number of athletes to join the team this year.
Senior team captain Morgan McKee said he appreciates how “convenient it is to practice in such a big, clean facility that is near WAHS.” But more importantly, he thinks the early mornings provide him with more structure. Junior Lexi Campbell agreed, “morning practice has made me more disciplined, has improved my academics, and has allowed me to make plans to occasionally hang out with friends after school.” She also loves that “practicing down the street from my house saves gas money.”
This was the most successful season in WAHS swimming history.
The two-time defending state champion girls’ team had to deal with the graduation of state meet point scorers and team leaders like Seana Acker, Hannah Chiarella, Natalie Cronk, Meredith Higgins, and Katie Lesemann. But the team was not without talent or leaders to replace them. Previous state team scorers Lexi Campbell, Anna Corley, Becca Moriconni, Remedy Rule, Katie Sheppard, and Elsa Strickland remained, and they were joined by a number of highly talented sophomore and freshman teammates.
The girls went undefeated in Jefferson District competition and won the Ben Hair Invitational (formerly the City-County Invitational) by defeating the talented Albemarle team by 22 points. In the post-season, the team won the Jefferson District championship in convincing fashion, defeating the Charlottesville High School team by 111 points.
WAHS was led by Jefferson District Swimmer of the Year Remedy Rule, who won both of her individual events and was also a member of the winning 200 Medley and 400 Freestyle relays. The team won six of the eight individual swimming events and won all three relay titles. The team qualified 19 individuals to compete in the Region II Swimming and Diving Championships and won the meet in convincing fashion, scoring 144 points; the second place team from Dominion scored 66 points.
The team next won a third consecutive team title at the VHSL State Swim Meet. Fourteen swimmers and divers contributed to the point total.
The Western boys only graduated two members from last year’s Jefferson District Championship team. During the regular season, the team went undefeated and finished second at the Ben Hair Invitational. Next, the boys won the Jefferson District Championship meet by 60 points over Monticello.
The team was led by Jefferson District Swimmer of the Year Alex Rayle, who won both of his individual races and was also a member of the winning 400 freestyle relay. Junior Danny O’Dea also won two individual events for the Warriors, the 50 and 100 freestyle races. Overall, the team qualified 14 individuals to compete in the Region II Swimming and Diving Championships.
At the Region II meet, the boys won their first regional title in seven years, finishing by a comfortable 16-point margin over Potomac Falls. The team ended its incredible season with a third place finish at the state swim meet. Eight boys scored points for the Warriors.
The key for the team’s improvement this year was the development of a relatively young sprint group. This group of sprinters allowed the team to score all three relays in the top eight at the state meet. The Western team was one of only two teams to have all three relays finish in the top eight.
This year’s graduating senior girls, led by captains Anna Corley, Katie Sheppard, and Elsa Strickland, leave an incredible legacy. In their four years at Western, they have won the last three state championships and finished in second place their freshman year. During their high school career, they won every district and regional swim title.
This year’s graduating boys, led by captains Alex Rayle and Morgan McKee, cap off their Western swimming careers having won three Jefferson District championships, one Region II championship, and one third-place finish at the state meet. They have established Western’s boy’s swimming program as one of the elite programs in the state.
Members of the Western Swim and Dive State Team:
Girls State Team: Brynn Acker, Alexandra Brown, Lexi Campbell, Anna Corley, Julia Elder, Colleen Higgins, Rebecca Moriconi, Kathryn Poos, Abiah Pritchard, Kristen Richey, Maggie Rossberg, Brazil Rule, Remedy Rule, Savannah Scarbrough, Katie Sheppard, Elsa Strickland, Leanne Tarleton, Maddy Tegen
Boys State Team: Kyle Benson, Meade Cogan, Spencer Elliott, Zach Mandell, Morgan McKee, Danny O’Dea, Jake Paulson, Alex Rayle, Bobby Surina, Max Tempkin, Marcus Van Clief.