Program Spotlight: High School Swimming

 

You may have heard some talk about high school swimming in Henrico, but did you know that it’s actually already happening? NOVA has partnered up with Henrico County high schools to craft a competitive program, promote swimming locally, and allow swimmers to represent their schools in a sport they love.

Godwin Swimmers on first day of practiceBringing high school swimming to Henrico County has been over two years in the making. The idea began with parents of Godwin High School year-round swimmers, including current and former NOVA parents. This group researched options, talked to the county, and laid the foundation for the club programs to begin. Efforts ramped up this past summer, when the group made a formal proposal to Henrico County Public Schools (HCPS). The proposal was approved in September and allowed for the formation of swim clubs in any of the county’s nine high schools.

Currently, the club teams are funded by the swimmers and their parents; however, the goal is to work toward eventually becoming a sanctioned high school varsity sport. The teams would then be supported by the schools and recognized by the Virginia High School League, allowing them to compete against all other high school teams in the state and in the state championships.

Because of their early research, which included talking to NOVA about using our facility, Godwin was ready to form a club upon school board approval. Other schools utilized their base of knowledge and quickly jumped in. When it became clear that swim clubs were going to be approved for the 2013/14 school year, the parent groups and NOVA worked together to finalize a plan. NOVA is providing practice sessions for the clubs each weekday morning as well as an additional practice on the weekend. NOVA coaches, led by Diane Cayce, are training the clubs, ensuring that the swimmers have the best local coaches available.

In the end, five schools were able to put together club teams for the inaugural season, including Godwin, Deep Run, Freeman, Glen Allen and Tucker High Schools. A small number of swimmers from Hermitage and Varina High Schools are swimming with the Glen Allen club as well. Many NOVA families are involved. The program was designed to be virtually turn-key for the clubs, to allow for as many participating schools as possible, and, so far, the program is running smoothly.                                  Glen Allen Swimmers showing some spirit

Jeannie Adams, a NOVA parent and board member for Eagles Swimming at Godwin, said, “I think the beginning of high school swimming is going better than we ever could have hoped. The explosion of teams is truly amazing. We expected that, at most, three teams would form, and the fact that five schools have been able to field teams on their own, and swimmers from two more high schools are participating in cooperation with [Jaguar Swimming], is confirmation that Henrico County students have embraced this opportunity.” Karen Haeseker, of Deep Run’s Wildcat Swimming, added, “All of our swimmers are having a great a time and are just happy to be able to swim for their high school.”  

Practice began on November 11, and the season will run through early February. There are over 150 swimmers participating from the seven schools. The swimmers practice three times a week. About half of the swimmers already swim year-round, but there are also athletes who have only participated in summer league, as well as some who have never done any type of competitive swimming before. It has been a great way to bring together kids who both love swimming and want to represent their high school.

Even though swimmers from each team practice together, the team spirit has been evident, particularly at the meets. Julie Farney, president of Rebels Swimming at Freeman, stated “Our team [has come] together to cheer, support and lean on each other…We are looking forward to [remaining meets] to see where this first season takes us. We feel we have strong momentum going into next year and are excited to see how much our team grows.”

The clubs have held two meets at NOVA so far and will participate in the February 7th County Champs meet. In addition, the clubs are participating in other meets around the area. At each meet, one NOVA coach leads each club team. Coaches working with the program include Diane Cayce, Drew Hirth, Mike McKee, Jonathan Kaplan, Stephanie Wolfle and Leigh Peterson.

So far, the feedback from the club teams has been very positive. Adams shared, “NOVA’s willingness to provide the support we needed to get this program off the ground and hold meaningful swim meets has really made it possible…the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive from school administrators, parents, kids, existing high school teams that have agreed to swim against club teams, and the general community. The excitement at the first meet of seeing kids from [all the] schools cheering each other on, supporting those swimmers who had not previously had an opportunity like this, and wearing their school gear with pride, was encouraging and electric!”.