First Colonial girls seek four-peat: First Colonial’s girls have become the area’s powerhouse program, winning the past three state team championships in Class 5. Their hopes for a four-peat will rest largely with senior Kayleigh Duffy and her sophomore sister, Dara. Sara Teague, Brenna Fary, Anna Eberle, Addy Roberts, Maris Marchione, sisters Charlotte and Nora Everhart, Lana Macchi and freshman Alina Masson provide plenty of depth.
Diving for treasure: Last season was a platform — pun not intended — for some of the area’s best divers, and the sport continues to grow. To wit: Hickory junior Peyton Worman already has two state Class 5 girls first-place medals and Jacob Shinn won the Class 5 boys title as a freshman last season, helping the Hawks take third at state. Izzie Mauldin also should score diving points for Hickory. Grassfield’s Reagan Davis made the Class 6 girls finals, and Gavin Gabel will compete for the Grizzlies’ boys. Elizabeth Dooley is Granby’s first diver in four years. Kecoughtan brings back boys state qualifiers Brayden Green and Hunter Lively and girls qualifier Madison Runge. York recently saw a diving program approved to supplement its often-excellent swimmers.
Bay Rivers optimism: York’s girls are coming off a 9-0, Class 3 Region A championship and state runner-up season. West Virginia-committed Kendall Butler teamed with Phoebe Mayo and Nora McMullen as part of a 200 medley relay state champ, and Olivia Mayo joined her sister and Butler on the 200 free relay champs. Swimmers Lucas Vasques and Ryan Pelletier return with state-level experience for the York boys, who went 2-7 in a loaded BRD, but were second in the region. Both Lafayette teams were 7-2 last season under Harold Baker, who is in his fourth decade coaching. Braden Lee, Brody Cox and Tommy Watson head a boys squad that also includes promising freshmen Anson Butler, Teddy Sykes and Wyatt Sylvester. The girls squad is highlighted by sophomore Elizabeth Gregory and seniors Grace Gregory and Lindsay Hanks. “We have a lot more depth on the boys’ side,” Baker said. “The girls’ side has up-front power, but needs to develop depth.” Bruton’s girls return plenty from their defending Class 2 state champs, including Scarlett Miller, Maddie Hubbard, Alyssa White, Izzie Check, Peyton Cleary and Ella Edmonds.
Around the area:
The First Colonial boys, who won Class 5 Region A last season, bring back considerable experience with Nate Keenan, Kevin Mamaril, Chase Wilkerson, Colt McCoy and Austin Temple, while Parker Knapp, Alex Keenan and William Wilson give the Patriots one of the area’s stronger freshman classes. “We get stronger every year,” coaches Cassondre Wilburn and Kate Hudson said.
- In the Eastern District, Granby, whose boys and girls were 5-1 last season and were fifth in Class 5 Region B, looks to challenge Maury as coach Amanda Conley begins her 11th year. Sophomore Gabriel Winston and Ella Arbuckle are team record-holders and multiple-event state qualifiers. Henry Sol, an International Baccalaureate student and five-sport athlete, hopes to return to state.
- The Peninsula District tends to be the domain of Menchville and Kecoughtan. Kecoughtan’s boys finished 7-1 last season and “have a strong group of upperclassmen,” according to coach Joey Stickle, including returning state-qualifying seniors Justin Grantham and Will Warren.
- The Warriors’ girls also are coming off a 7-1 year and figure to be paced by state qualifiers Skylar Johnson and Alison Soter.
- Bethel, lacking year-round swimmers, is trying to grow its program with competitors such as Josiah Tate and Joseph Creviston for boys and Phoebe Jones and Kaiya Cox for girls.
- Referring to the Grassfield girls, who were 8-1 and fourth in Class 6 Region A last season, coach Eric Henniker said “this should be the strongest team we’ve had in five years.” Samantha Halvorson should head the team.
- The Grassfield boys bring back state qualifiers Connor Poole and Linas Pflanz. Henniker said his Grizzlies’ records in their past 53 Southeastern District meets are 51-2 for boys and 48-5 for girls. He expects both Hickory teams and the Nansemond River boys to be their toughest district opposition. Hickory’s boys feature state individual and relay qualifiers Zachary McNabb, Colin Barakey, Tommy Blackburn, JT Russell and Evan Vinarov, Hawks coach Shamus Riley said. The boys were Class 5 Region A runners-up and third-place finishers at state after a 7-2 regular season.
- Deep Creek’s boys, who never have beaten Hickory, have a chance to do so behind state-level swimmers such as Ian Garth, Tyler Swartz and Dahmon Harmon.
- Great Bridge coach Gabrielle Ford said her boys have a strong chance to win the district. Seniors Colin Goedecke and Brian Kustowski, junior Ryland Harrell, sophomores Ethan Stowell and Nicholas Stratton will try to make that happen for a team coming off a 9-1 season.
- In the private school ranks, senior Carter Whetstine and junior Blaise VanSlyke pace a deep Norfolk Academy boys team that is seeking to repeat as the TCIS champs and as state 400 free relay gold medalists. As for the Bulldogs’ girls, coach Kristen Kirkman will lean on a junior class featuring Sofia Kohler, Annie Avery, Ellie Fickenscher, Alexis Huelsburg and diver Lia Burr to compete for high honors in the TCIS and VISAA.
- Norfolk Christian returns girls senior Ryleigh Allen and boys freshman Caleb Gyorfi, both of whom qualified for the CVISAA state meet.
Next level: As usual, plenty of last year’s 12th-grade swimmers are competing in college. Here are some of the high school class of 2023 and their destinations:
Men: Bobby DiNunzio (Ocean Lakes to Florida), Colin Mamaril (Ocean Lakes to William & Mary), Jack Bond (Grassfield to Frostburg State), Ben Mauldin (Hickory to Navy), Jay Gerloff (Hickory to Virginia), Radomyr Couture (Princess Anne to Johns Hopkins), Ian Rodgers (Menchville to George Mason), Justin Sere (Grafton to Drexel), Jack Graham (Jamestown to George Mason) and Elijah Fields (York to VMI).
Women: Alexa Ozment (Bayside to Hawaii), Riley Moorman (Hickory to Washington and Lee), Emma Walker (Warhill to Mary Washington), Karina Long (Jamestown to Mary Washington), Delaney Gibbons (Williamsburg Christian Academy to Salisbury), Parvaneh Bonyadlou (Warhill to Smith), Ainsley Graf (Deep Creek to Mary Washington), Trinity Schulze (Jamestown to Richmond), Wyllo Hanson (Jamestown to Auburn), Madelyn Paxton (Grafton to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy), Casey Tingen (York to George Mason) and Delaney Cox (Lafayette to West Virginia)
Five swimmers you should know
Kayleigh Duffy, First Colonial: The senior, ranked No. 1 in her class among current Hampton Roads swimmers by swimcloud.com, is ready to go from one championship program to another. She has committed to compete for three-time defending NCAA champion Virginia. She has honed her skills with the Tide Swimming club and is the reigning Class 5 champion in the 50- and 100-yard freestyles (23.68 and 51.27 seconds, respectively). She and her younger sister, Dara, contributed to the Patriots’ state 400 freestyle relay victory in 3:29.61 and to a third-place 200 medley in 1:47.62.
Elizabeth Gregory, Lafayette: She wasted no time establishing herself as a force in the Class 3 ranks. As a freshman last year in her first VHSL state meet, she won the 200-yard freestyle in 1:51.22 and was third in the 200 individual medley in 2:08.81, third in the 100 butterfly in 56.13 and fourth in the 500 free at 5:09.57. That contributed heavily to the Rams’ fourth-place finish.
Phoebe Mayo, York: The junior was one of the biggest reasons the Falcons finished second in the state Class 3 girls championships last season and could win this year’s top trophy. The Coast Guard Blue Dolphins competitor was the runner-up in two events (2:03.57 in the 200 individual medley and 55.06 in the 100 backstroke), and she swam on two victorious relays (1:47.07 in the 200 medley and 1:36.97 in the 200 free).
Gabe Nunziata, StoneBridge: Also a cross country runner for the Cavaliers, he fared quite well in the water at least year’s VISAA Division II Invitational. He won the 50-yard freestyle in 22.29 seconds and set a meet record of 1:44.62 in the 200 free. He competes for the Old Dominion Aquatic Club, and swimcloud.com rates him at the top of the area boys list.
Blaise VanSlyke, Norfolk Academy: The Bulldogs have established a tradition of being one of the state’s best teams, and this junior from Tide Swimming has continued it. In last season’s VISAA championships, he was the 200 freestyle runner-up in 1:42.10 and the fourth-place 100 freestyler in 46.78. In relays, he helped Norfolk Academy win the 400 free (3:09.61) and take second in the 200 free (1:25.75).