Gator Nation

Gator Nation

Sunday, August 4, 2019

They Are Who We Thought They Were

Dennis Green, the former NFL coach, had an epic meltdown/quote after his team blew a lead in a game that they had dominated, and ended up losing. When one of the reporters asked him about how they could lose when their defense had been so dominant, he set off on his rant. The other team was better, and even though his team had played well for much of the game, the other team still found a way to win. He repeated the quote multiple times at the post-game presser, in a much more animated fashion than his normally stoic demeanor. "They are who we thought they were," he said, referring to their opponents.

Beware. Hungry Gator.
To be clear, I'm not channeling Denny Green here on any type of rant. But the words fit. We thought our swimmers were All-Stars and they performed that way. In fact, just about everyone pretty much hit the mark on their seeds within a place or two either way on Saturday. Hitting their seeds means that they finished in the place they were seeded. They performed as expected, and "They are who we thought they were."

That said, we did have a couple of our swimmers outperform a bit, which is worthy of special recognition. First, Clark Bayer, who was initially entered as an alternate for the 15-18 Free a week ago, then was moved up all the way to his final spot as the 10th seed after some scratches, and ultimately took 5th place in the event! That's quite a climb to glory. Natalie Crowther also kicked it into a higher gear in the 8 & under Fly. She cut 0.77 seconds off her time and jumped up two spots to finish 6th and come away with one of the coveted top-6 medals. And the BIG MOVER of the weekend was Sam Bruce. Sam crushed it in the 9-10 Fly, cutting 0.64 off his own team record to finish the race in 15.95 and jumped up 6 places to finish in 4th and earned himself one of those shiny top-6 medals, too.
Sam says, "I'll beat you with one leg behind my back."

Rounding out our other top-6 finishers were:
Donovan Kovalsky, 3rd place in 13-14 Free
Alex North, 4th place in 11-12 Free
Sheridan Phalen, 6th place in 15-18 Free

For those who like the stats, seven out of our 19 Gators swims were in Freestyle, and four out of our six top-6 finishers were Freestyle. We then had a tie with four swimmers each in Breaststroke and Fly, and then we had three in Back, and one IMer.

And in case you didn't read the last blog post, I'll mention it again... 19 swims at All-Stars is an all-time high for the Gators. And you want to know something else? Every one of those swimmers is coming back next summer. And... five of those 12 swimmers will be in the same age group again next year. Something tells me well be reading about them again in about 12 months.

"Who me?" Yeah, you know it. 
Five out of 12 coming back in the same age group next year? Maybe they aren't who we thought they were after all. Maybe they are even better. And that's saying something.... 'cause we already thought they were pretty darn awesome.

I only highlight the returning to the same age group thing because those swimmers are basically already below the All-Star cut for next year. In all likelihood, they will get even faster. And so will the other swimmers who are moving up an age. There's going to be a lot of fast swims to write about. I like the way next year's Gator summer season is stacking up already.

Full results are here and pictures are here.

Go Gators!

Last one. Cue the music. 


Friday, August 2, 2019

All-Business for the All-Stars


Ok, it's All-Star time. Since the last update, we've added some firm entries to the Gator All-Star squad. Gabby Greszler has moved up and is now seeded and will swim the 15-18 Free. And Cole Miller is now an Alternate in both 15-18 Free and Fly.

That puts us at a firm entry total of 12 swimmers in 19 events, with a 13th swimmer possible for a 20th and maybe even 21st event. That's a historical high for MVP. We've had more individuals attend the meet in the past (15 different swimmers in 2013), but we have never had Gators swim in 19 events. The highest number of Gator swims was in that 2013 season when we raced in 18 different events. So, we're going to break that by at least one this year, and maybe two or three. Pretty impressive, eh? 

In fact, there were so many Gators at the pool familiarization Friday morning that we couldn't fit them all in the photo: 

Apparently, we need one of those real estate camera lenses to get
so many Gator All-Stars to all fit in one photo! 
If you are interested in watching any portion of the All-Stars, it will be streamed online by SwimNinja.com here: https://swimninja.com/2019/08/02/2019-nvsl-all-stars-livestream/

The schedule will follow these "No Earlier Than" times, meaning that even if the meet is going quickly, they will not start subsequent strokes earlier than the published times below. Each stroke will begin with the 8 & unders, then 9-10s, 11-12s, 13-14s, and then conclude with the 15-18s. 

NET "No Earlier Than" times (Swimmers are listed in the order of their events): 

9am Freestyle 
  • Margaret Driscoll
  • Sam Bruce
  • Alex North
  • Donovan Kovalsky
  • Cole Miller (TBD/Alternate)
  • Clark Bayer
  • Gabby Greszler
  • Sheridan Phalen
10am Backstroke
  • Lincoln Jetton
  • Elizabeth Kellogg
  • Alex North
11am Breaststroke
  • Lincoln Jetton
  • Natalie Crowther
  • Jack Klopson
  • Donovan Kovalsky
12pm Fly
  • Natalie Crowther
  • Sam Bruce
  • Matt Makin
  • Cole Miller (TBD/Alternate)
  • Sheridan Phalen
1pm Individual Medley
  • Matt Makin
That's a lot of Gators! The full Psych sheet is posted here

Ok, I was just kidding about not being able to fit all the Gators in the photo... I was able to back up a little and get the rest of them in there, even without the fish-eye lens. Yes, I said that this blog was going to be All-Business, but I had to get some levity in here. Here's the real photo. 

Gator All-Stars
Enjoy the show. Go Gators!




Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Divisional Championship and Those Squad Goals


MVP wins the Sportsmanship Award... two years in a row! 
With the conclusion of the final "A" meet of the season last week, I mentioned that the "team" aspect of the season had ended. And it ended famously with an amazing win capped by several come-from-behind victories in the relays which gave the Gators a winning record on the season and moved us into 2nd place in the division (read about it here). Now we move on from the regular season into the "post-season" meets. The Individual Divisional Championship and the Individual All-Stars are both (as the name implies) focused on the individual. There is no team score. The outcomes are individual times. The Divisional Championships pit the top two swimmers in each stroke against each other for Divisional glory (and as we've covered here quite a few times, Division 3 is absolutely stacked). The top performing swimmers at Divisional then have the chance to advance on to All-Stars if their times fall within the top-18 in all of the NVSL (which quite a few Gators did... more on that later).

New MVP Record. Awesome Fly Photo. 2 for 1. 
As a team, we don't really have any explicit goals for Divisionals or All-Stars. We just want all of our swimmers to do the very best they can. Of course, we like it when our team earns those coveted 1st place medals at Divisionals or berths into the All-Star meet. We keep track of that stuff (and, of course, I'm going to talk about it in this blog), but as a team, we don't set specific goals for team performance. That said, lots of people hope that we'll have more champions than in previous years and get more swimmers into All-Stars than before. Similarly, we don't have explicit team goals for the regular season, but everybody prefers winning more than losing (and finishing 3-2 is pretty nice in that regard). I'm sure some folks want to see a 5-0, but I also know others who think 3-2 is the sweet spot, since it normally keeps us put in D3, with a lesser chance of moving up next season (but, not a zero chance).

Pardon me sir, is that a 1st Place Jetton?

So, while the team goals are limited and generally not a driving force during the season, the individual goals of the swimmers are another thing altogether. Success doesn't just happen. Success is something that comes from hard work, focused in the right areas. There is a lot of research on goal-setting and it all tends to point at the same thing: setting very specific and challenging goals has a greater effect on performance improvement than easy or vague goals.  That's right. If you set specific goals, you will improve more than if you set general goals.

There is a good acronym for goal-setting know as "SMART" goals. The mnemonic helps guide goal-setters in how to craft a goal so that it will be valuable in making those performance improvements. SMART stands for:
Specific: A general thought of "I want to do better" is not a goal. Specific targets that are actionable are what we need to improve performance.
Measureable: Finding a measure to track progress helps evaluate progress.
Achievable: It's got to be something realistic. That doesn't mean you can't have a goal of going to the Olympics from a young age... but there need to be intermediate goals that help get you there for the short and mid-term.
Relevant: This is where the "why" part comes in. The goal must be something you buy into. It must means something to you.
Time-Bound: Goals have dates on them.  Weekly? Seasonal? Annual? Olympic cycle? Set a date.

Pearls published a comic about goals on the day I blogged about goals...
the universe is connected. And, mmmm.... donuts. 
Many of our swimmers dream of success. Setting SMART goals and developing an action-plan for achieving them is the recipe for fulfilling those dreams. Here's the confusing part... saying "just go do your best" is a common refrain around the swim pool, and it is a wonderful concept but that is most-definitely NOT a good goal-setting strategy. That "just do your best" is good advice on game day. But when we are trying to get better, we need those specific goals and targets to work towards. Once we have those goals, then we set up action plans to get us there. When swimmers are waking up before 4am all winter long, "just do your best" isn't going to keep getting them out of bed (or get them to go to sleep early the night before). But having that goal to cut 4 seconds off their time in Fly by next summer in order to make All-Stars will help. (Can you identify all the components of a SMART goal in there?) Once that goal is set, then the action plan helps define the steps necessary to get there: (1) Enroll in winter swim, (2) establish a set bedtime routine, (3) get up early and get to swim practice consistently, (4) do your best every day at those practices (see, that's where the "do your best" part comes in... in the action, not the goal), (5) measure progress, and (6) reflect.

That reflection part is an important and often overlooked piece of goal-setting. Did we achieve the goal? If so, awesome! If not, did we come close? One of the great benefits of setting high, challenging goals is that even if we miss them, we generally move pretty far along the continuum towards greater performance. Maybe that swimmer who wanted to cut four seconds to make All-Stars only cut three. That three-second cut is still pretty good... it probably moved the swimmer up the ladder both at MVP and got them a higher place at Divisionals. The reflective part of goal setting lets us evaluate if the goal is still valid and if the action-plan did the things needed to get there. Do we need to make modifications or changes?

In the "identifying the swimmer" category... Breast
photos definitely win the contest, even above Fly. 
One thing for sure, is that many of our Gator swimmers had goals involving Divisionals and All-Stars. Many of those goals were probably achieved, and they should be celebrated. But some may not have been. Now is the time to reflect on those goals and start setting new goals for next year (and then putting in place the action plans to achieve them).

One of my goals is to be able to blog about all the awesome stuff the Gators do all summer long, and these swimmers make that easy. It's ten weeks from Memorial Day when practices begin until All-Stars and the conclusion of the summer season... and what an enjoyable ride it has been this year! That aforementioned 3-2 record with some super exciting meets was a big part, especially that final Hollywood Ending last week. The Relay Carnival and All-Star Relays were both amazing. And now that we find our Gators competing in the Divisional Championships, the performances did not disappoint.

The inspirational pose for the new Gator team trophies...
At Divisionals, there are five events across all of the age groups: Free, Back, Breast, Fly, and IM. (Note: there is no specific IM for 8 & unders, but they can compete as 10 & under if they qualify.) Each team sends two swimmers for each of the 48 events. MVP swimmers brought home eight of the championship medals. Event winners were:

Donovan Kovalsky (2): 13-14 Free and Breast
Elizabeth Kellogg: 8 & under Back
Alexander North: 11-12 Back
Lincoln Jetton: 8 & under Breast
Natalie Crowther: 8 & under Fly
Sam Bruce: 9-10 Fly
Matthew Makin: 11-12 Fly

Interestingly, the breakdown of champions was pretty even... as has been the case with everything else in D3. Donaldson Run, the D3 champs, also took home the most individual crowns with 11. Hunter Mill had 9, MVP and Crosspointe 8, Vienna Woods 7 and High Point 6. If you are doing the math, you'll notice that adds up to 49, not 48. There was one tie for 1st place.

MVP giving 'em the old 1-2 in Breast. 
Silver medal winners were:
Margaret Driscoll: 8 & under Free
Sam Bruce: 9-10 Free
Alex North: 11-12 Free
Clark Bayer: 15-18 Free
Abigail Litonjua: 11-12 Breast
Jack Klopson: 13-14 Breast
James Piland: 13-14 Fly

And Gators finishing third:
Kate Barber: 8 & under Free
Sheridan Phalen: 15-18 Free
Lincoln Jetton: 8 & under Back
Natalie Crowther: 8 & under Breast
Jack Alzona: 11-12 Breast
Cole Miller: 15-18 Fly
Sheridan Phalen: 15-18 Fly
Anthony Sarro: 9-10 IM
Matthew Makin: 11-12 IM
James Piland: 13-14 IM

Whew. That's a lot of Gator D3 medalists in there. The complete results for all the swimmers is online here

There were some other major accomplishments, too. Record breaking? Of course.

Strong finish for the record. 
Donovan Kovalsky swam in two events and broke two MVP records (what is this 2018 again?). Donovan lowered his own 13-14 Boys 50 Free mark to 25.50. He also set a new mark in the Breast with a time of 34.51, shaving about 0.2 seconds off Charlie Ruppe's record from last year.

Sheridan Phalen broke Cassidy Bayer's 2015 MVP record in the 15-18 Freestyle by swimming a blistering 26.58. Despite that record breaking time, which was faster than her first place time last year at All-Stars... she finished 3rd. Have I mentioned how strong D3 is lately?

Sam Bruce lowered his own record in the 9-10 25m Fly finishing in an amazing first place tie in a time of 16.59.

Wheaties? More like Special K.  
And while not a record, Elizabeth Kellogg's personal best in the 8 & under Back is noteworthy as she dropped 2 seconds off of her seed time for the upset win in 22.51. I would say she must have ate her Wheaties, but we all know those are from General Mills, not Kellogg's (Ba-dum-tss).

And, let's not forget about the All-Stars. As I mentioned, one of the other major functions of the Divisional Championships is to serve as the qualifying meet for All-Stars. We had 10 Gators initially make the cut for All-Stars in 16 events, and those All-Stars are:
  • Alex North (Free and Back)
  • Donovan Kovalsky (Free and Breast)
  • Elizabeth Kellogg (Back)
  • Jack Klopson (Breast)
  • Lincoln Jetton (Back and Breast)
  • Margaret Driscoll (Free) 
  • Matt Makin (Fly and IM)
  • Natalie Crowther (Breast and Fly)
  • Sam Bruce (Free and Fly)
  • Sheridan Phalen (Free)
Definitely didn't "Back" into that victory. 
And that's not the end of the story. Several other Gator swimmers who originally made the alternate list have been moved up to the firm swim list in the past 24 hours. Clark Bayer has been added to Freestyle and Sheridan Phalen has made the cut for second event in Fly (putting her in both Free and Fly now). That brings the MVP firm entry total up to 11 swimmers in 18 events... which (if they all actually swim Saturday, as expected) would tie the MOST EVER actual swims by MVP Gators at All-Stars. We also had swimmers in 18 events back in 2013.

But wait... there is more. Adding a final element of drama to the 2019 season, both Cole Miller and Gabby Greszler are currently first alternates for their respective 15-18 Freestyle events... check back later this week to see if any other scratches get them in. If either of them gets into the meet, it will set an MVP all-time high by having swimmers in 19 events!

Something tells me lots of these Gators are good at goal setting. I can't wait too see what goals they set for next year. But first... let's wait and see how this All-Star thing turns out. We'll keep you updated this week with any more movement on the qualifying list and then send out a meet summary over the weekend after the meet. Be sure to come back and read about how it all turns out.

Interested in attending All-Stars? The info is here. Interesting in watching from home on your couch? Well you can do that, too... you just have to cheer extra loud if you want them to hear you. The meet is scheduled to be live streamed on Swim Ninja.

Want to see more pictures? Look here.  Want to see the end of year videos from the campout? Here.

Go Gators!

That's some high quality H2O. And a high quality Fly pic.




Friday, July 26, 2019

The Annual IMI: Is MVP Invincible?

All joy, no Sarro. (Ok, maybe not my best pun ever there.)
You can read my thought in the title of this blog post. Technically, the IMI is an acronym for the Individual Medley Invitational meet. But if we want to be honest, we can just start making it an acronym for "Is MVP Invincible?" Another gaggle of speedy IM swims by your Gators makes this 10 years in a row on top of this meet.

If you haven't read last year's blog on the topic, you should. Just click the link and review it. There is some background on the event and how it is scored as well as some situational set-up to understand the history of the event, and MVP's place (and dominance) within that history. Last year we officially pulled even with Waynewood for the all-time lead in IMI victories. And if you are even remotely good at math, you can see that this year's win puts us atop the heap alone as the all-time winningest IMI pool. Damn it feels good to be a gangster.

We had three swimmers win the overall title for their events:

Natalie Crowther, Girls 8 & Under Fly: 19.93 (8 & unders swim Fly instead of IM at this meet)
Helen Milito, Girls 9-10: 1:35.56
Alex North, Boys 11-12: 1:14.71

Sometimes the Fly photo isn't last...
We also had a bunch of seconds, thirds, etc. Check out the full results from the meet here. But, to be honest, with all of the age groups and different division breakdowns in the results sheet, it's a little bit too much information (did I just say that?) So, if you just want the simplified Gator-only results, you can see those here. All the IMI photos are here.

Final scores of all the teams (broken down by division) are here.

With the rainout of the Gator Romp in the Swamp on Wednesday, that makes the IMI the final regular team meet of the season. The team is now moving into the post-season playoffs. Next up is the Individual Divisional Championships, in which the top two swimmers in every stroke from each D3 team vie for superiority and berths into next week's individual All-Star Championship.

... especially if there is a trophy photo! Champions! 



Monday, July 22, 2019

Hollywood Endings - A Meet vs High Point Pool

Hollywood has perfected its formula. Most stories are told in three acts: (1) Start with some set-up of the characters and situation, (2) Make some progress towards an objective, then have some complications arise, and then (3) Following a major set-back, make a heroic push and get to the climax, with our heroes normally emerging victorious. That's pretty much the whole enchilada. For all the stories out there. We become emotionally connected to the characters in Act 1, we follow their trials through Act 2, and then we celebrate their victory in Act 3.

Gator Relays Rule! (Foreshadowing...)
Take the classic movie "Rocky" for example. We learn about this hard luck boxer from Philly who works for the mob to get by, then he gets an opportunity! An injury to Apollo Creed's opponent creates the chance for Rocky to fight for the heavyweight title. In Act 2, he trains, has a few minor setbacks, and then the major set-back when he has a crisis of confidence. Then, in Act 3, he is rejuvenated in his training and ultimately goes the distance with Apollo, something no one had ever done before.

It is a proven successful formula for storytelling. Now, I'm going to tell you about the final "A" Meet of the season: matching the MVP Gators versus the High Point Pool Hippos. You're going to think someone wrote this story following the standard Hollywood 3-act script. But, not true! Everything you read here is part of an actual true story, but I submit no writer in Hollywood could have done any better to create such a terrific tale.

Where do we begin? Well, Act 1, I suppose. Our heroes are the Gators of MVP. We find them having a strong swim season, coming off a stellar performance at the All-Star relays and sitting upon a win-loss record of 2-2 in the NVSL's 3rd Division. With a win, MVP would finish above .500 and in second place, but a loss would drop down to fourth place in the standings and give them a losing record. The antagonists of this story are the High Point Pool Hippos. They sit above the Gators in the standings at 3-1, and come to the MVP pool for the second year in a row, having stunned the Gators last year in the opening meet of the season, 235-185. (You can read about that here.) Last year, we learned the hard way about the deadly nature of Hippos... the most lethal animal in Africa, in fact.



So, with last year's 50-point whooping in the back of everyone's mind... and the knowledge of the threat of those Hippos, the stage was set for this year's meet- the final one of the 2019 season. The Gators had a battle on their hands seeking both redemption from last year, and a higher level of success for this year. To add to the tension, it was Senior Day to boot. And of course everyone wants to send the Seniors off with a final victory. However, the simulations and forecast showed that the Gators were likely to come up short again this year... in an extremely tight battle.... but short, nonetheless. Act 1 has begun.

The first Clean Sweep of the day begins...
As the meet begins, our heroes seize on the some early opportunities in the Freestyle heats. First, Margaret Driscoll puts up a personal best in the 8 & under event to win the race and get two unexpected points in the second event of the day. Then, Gavin Fore outraced his opponent in the 11-12 race, coming away with an unexpected third place.  Cassidy Crowther also found a personal best to earn another upset win for the 11-12 Girls. And then Jack Klopson hit a personal best in the 13-14 race to steal third place and give the Gators a clean-sweep in that event.

As Act 1 draws to a close, we have new opportunity. After Freestyle, the score was expected to be even, but thanks to those clutch performances, the Gators led 50-40. Momentum had shifted strongly towards the Gators side... victory seemed achievable.

The Gators initially kept pace through the Backstroke events, but then an unexpected DQ robbed the Gators of critical points- taking away a second place finish. But while that DQ gave the Hippos 2nd place, interestingly, it created a tie for third place. When there is a tie, the swimmers split the points. Ella Pribble moved up into 3rd place in the event and earned a half point, along with her Hippo counterpart. Remember this half point for later in the story (that's called foreshadowing in movie lingo).

Following that DQ, more trouble arose for our heroes as the complications mounted. The Gators were upset by the Hippos in a couple of Back and Breast events. Then in the 9-10 Fly, Sam Bruce and Liam Fore each swam great races only to be edged out by 0.03 and 0.02 for 1st and 3rd respectively. I mention those results because races that are that close fall within the margin of error for manually timed events... so, in reality, it was just unlucky for the Gators to come up short in both of those finishes which were basically statistical ties. (i.e. manual timers aren't good enough to clearly determine the result within 0.02 or 0.03)

"And you, young ones. We will watch your careers with
great interest." -Senator Palpatine
The Hippos fully stole the momentum through both the Back (38-52) and Breast (41-49), to not only even things up, but take over a commanding lead. Finally, the Gators were able to stop the bleeding by winning Fly 46-44, led by a clean sweep in the 8 & under Girls event. Thanks and congrats to Natalie Crowther, Tess McCall and Evelyn Milito for that accomplishment.

That said, the damage was done. The strong Hippo Back and Breast performances had wounded the Gators chances. Like Rocky Balboa, the team was staggered and bruised... trailing 175.5 to 184.5 heading into the Relays. The major set-back had happened.  The teams were very evenly matched in Relays, and seeing any upsets at this point seemed unlikely. Act 2 drew to a close with the foreboding of a probable losing season, despite such valiant efforts by the team.

Look closely at those fingers... Evan is 0.05 seconds ahead. 
As Act 3 begins, the tension was high, but no one had surrendered the day. There was still fight left in our heroes. In the first two relays, the results were split as expected. Then a new hope emerged as the 9-10 Boys dug down deep and pulled off an amazing upset victory, anchored by a HUGE final come-from-behind leg by Evan Pribble. They cut over THREE seconds off their time from only 10 days prior at the Divisional Relays, and leapt over the High Point team who themselves went nearly two seconds faster than their own winning time from Divisionals. The final result- 1:15.15 to 1:15.20. That's right, they beat the Division Champion relay team by 0.05 to steal a crucial 5-points. A final Gator victory was still distant, but this was the upset we needed to get moving in that direction.

Then, another twist of the plot came as High Point responded in the next race to upset MVP in similar fashion and take back those five points, winning by only 0.2 seconds in the 9-10 Girls relay. Could there be any more drama? Yes. Yes, there could.

Flying high.
The next four relays continued to alternate between Gator wins and Hippo wins. The deadlock in the relays continued, and it didn't look like the Gators were going to be able to find another needed victory to put them over the top. Despite the strong final push, it seemed as if they would fall just a bit short.

But this is where the climax of our story begins. With four events remaining, the Gators trailed 195.5-204.5. Two of the remaining Gator relay teams were amongst the very best in all of the NVSL: the Girls 15-18 Medley and Boys Mixed-Age Freestyle teams were virtually unbeatable. But those two races would not be enough... the Gators had to find one more win and were running out of opportunities. In fact, the Hippos were strong favorites in the final heat, which was basically out of reach.

That's one heck of an anchor leg in those frothy bubbles. 
So, it all came down to the Boys 15-18 Medley as the decisive event. The team that won this one was likely going to win the meet. Back at those Divisional Relays on July 10th, the HPP team finished ahead of the Gators even though the Gators had set a team record in that race! You read that right. Despite the Gators giving the all-time best 15-18 Gator Medley Relay performance, their best just wasn't good enough to beat the Hippos. Could they flip the story in this final dramatic meet of the year? The Gator Boys jumped out to an early lead, but the top High Point swimmers charged back in the middle legs and pulled ahead prior to the final Freestyle leg. The Gator anchor, Clark Bayer, was about a full body length behind when he left the wall. He then showed us some Gator magic for the ages and gave his best 50 yards of the season... coming all the way back to win the race in a new MVP record time of 1:55.34. This time the team's best got even better, and earned the victory... for their relay and the entire Gator Nation.

What a climax! The Gator cheering section erupted with the amazing victory. High fives were abundant. There may have even been some hugging amongst the celebrating Gator dads up top. Following the upset victory and record-breaking performance by the Boys, the 15-18 Girls and Mixed-Age Boys "held serve" as expected and cruised to victory in their respective events.

The final score? Gators 210.5, Hippos 209.5.
Closest meet of the year.
Closest meet in forever.
Victory achieved. 3-2 in the standings, tied for 2nd place in D3.
The third winning season in a row for the Gators, and seventh out of the past eight years.
(Note: remember that 0.5 points earned for the 3rd place tie I mentioned in the foreshadowing earlier? That sure mattered. As did every single point by every single swimmer in every single race.)

Seniors leading their final Gator cheers... to victory! 
And remember when I mentioned a couple weeks ago that it would feel much better going 3-2 by rattling off three straight wins at the end as compared to losing a few down the stretch... how do you like me now? The Gators were able to get those three wins, and I know I'm pretty pumped after this one. What a finish to the meet. What a finish to the season. What a great movie. I'm already looking forward to the sequel.

And how about those weekly honors? This week's Race of the Week has got to be a tie. The 9-10 Boys (Sam Bruce, Anthony Sarro, Liam Fore, and Evan Pribble) and 15-18 Boys (John French, TJ Heck, Cole Miller, and Clark Bayer) Medley relay upsets earned us the key 10 points we needed to snatch this victory from the jaws of the Hippos. Those races were awesome.

I'm just going to say it... some of these NVSL Officials
are real nit-pickers. 
Age Group of the Week? Well, that's a tough one, as usual. The 13-14 Boys once again put on a clinic and earned the most points (33) with one clean sweep and a victory in every race. The 8 & under Girls were right on their heels. The 11-12 Boys also won each of their races. One of the things about this blog is I tend to focus on the close races, upsets and interesting matchups. Doing that often results in glazing over some of the "Rock of Gibraltar" performances by some of our swimmers and age-groups who just keep winning all the time: the 8 & under Girls, 9-10 Boys, 11-12 Boys, 13-14 Boys, and 15-18 Girls have been consistently excellent all season. Any of those groups really could have been the AGOTW just about any week. But this week... I'm giving the title to the 15-18 Boys. The order of events put them in that crucial spot at the end, and I just can't unsee that awesome relay victory and amazing final leg by Clark.

And for Swimmers of the Week? I'm going off script for this one. Normally I pick an individual, but this meet was ultimately decided by the relays... and so it is with the relays we will stay for this honor. I know I already gave the ROTW to the relays, but they deserve even more this time around. Instead of an individual, I'm giving Swimmer of the Week to the Boys Relay teams en masse. They earned 25 out of a possible 30 relay points...including those two crucial upsets. That's some relay power and rightfully earned this week's SOTW.

Hold on a second.... I almost forgot something.  The main attraction (the "A" meet season) may be over, but there is another critical element that has become a staple for movies these days: the mid-credits scene and the after-credits scene. Coming up next week is the Individual Divisional Championships (mid-credits) and then the Individual All-Stars follows that on August 3rd. Don't get out of your seats. Be sure to keep watching and see what happens in these awesome additions to our movie (or rather... season).

Go Gators!

Awesome Senior banners are equal to the best Fly pics!
Congrats Seniors!




Saturday, July 20, 2019

Storm Damage at the All-Star Relays

The worst part about the rain delay is
that the after-party had to be shortened...
but still fun, of course.
Mmmm. District Taco.
If you've read this blog for any length of time, then you'll know that the series of relay meets (Divisional Relay Carnival and All-Star Relays) are highly valued. I'm pretty sure that sentiment is shared by many of the swimmers, parents, and coaches, too. There is just something special about four swimmers working together as a team in a high level challenge against many others from around the NVSL. The mutual support and encouragement, as well as the team competitiveness, are palpable.

It's not an overstatement to say this is my favorite meet of the year.... normally. But I am human. And circumstances can change things. There was a 2-hour rain delay. That did put a little damper on things. I was wet, and not in that fun "getting splashed by the 15-18 Boys while timing" kind of wet. And I was muddy. With all the foot traffic, some big mud puddles developed around the viewing areas... so, maybe, just maybe, this particular iteration of the All-Star relays wasn't my favorite meet this year. But its still up there near the top, muddy shoes and all.  

The storm did more than just make things muddy and wet.  There were also internet problems. Adding to the negative karma from the rain delay was the temporary outage sustained by the livestream team at SwimNinja. A large segment of the events after the restart were not captured on the livestream, so quite a few grandparents, friends, and parents who couldn't make it to the Lincolnia pool weren't able to watch the live feed on SwimNinja for over half of the meet because of technical/operational issues. Bummer. 

Goggles? Check. Fingers? Check. 
On a side note, I find it awkward that I feel so entitled to the SwimNinja livestream even though it is a completely free service and I have contributed nothing to its success or operation. I suppose that is just the state of things in today's connected world that we come to expect things probably a bit too much. We do need to appreciate the awesomeness of the the live video feed for swim events like this, as it is a wondrous technical marvel. I catch myself feeling upset that even though we are getting something for nothing, it still is disappointing when it is taken away. But things do happen. I understand it intellectually. But I still get a little emotionally disturbed. Thank goodness for the lessons I've learned through my years of watching Seinfeld... I can use my little mantra to get my emotions back in check, "SERENITY NOW."  

On another side note... my house lost power during the storm, and then when it came back up, the internet was still gone! Ugh. As the blogger, it is a pretty catastrophic blow to lose the internet. I enjoy the blogging... but not enough to try to do it on my phone. I'm definitely a full size keyboard kind of blogger. So, the no power/no internet thing put some delays in the blog schedule, which never makes me happy. So that's why you are probably reading this on Saturday instead of Thursday. "SERENITY NOW!" 

Anyway, I wouldn't say the cards weren't necessarily stacked against us on Wednesday, but once the "game" began, it sure seemed like someone was dealing from the bottom of the deck: thunder, lightning, rain, mud, darkness... But we're Gators and we'll overcome. And overcome all the troubles is precisely what our swimmers did. 

That's a record-breaking transition right there. 
In fact, when the team was in the pool, this year's All-Star Relay meet was pretty glorious and started out with a bang for the Gators. In event #2, the boys mixed-age relay team (Alexander North, Sam Bruce, Donovan Kovalsky, and Clark Bayer) broke their own MVP record and placed 4th in the race, finishing with a blistering time of 1:52.98. Hot start? Check. 

Then, following that lead, the rest of the teams rattled off a nice string of races, which included seven top-10 finishes, and five top-6s:  

Girls 8u Medley, 6th place: Elizabeth Kellogg, Hayden Ward, Natalie Crowther, & Margaret Driscoll

Boys 11-12 Medley, 5th place: George Schulte, Alexander North, Matthew Makin, & Gavin Fore

Boys 13-14 Medley 4th. Joe Humphreys, Jack Klopson, James Piland, and Donovan Kovalsky

Girls 15-18 Medley, 15th: Emily Makin, Taylor Makin, Gabby Greszler, and Sheridan Phalen

Boys 11-12 Free, 4th: Matthew Makin, Gavin Fore, Jack Alzona, and Alexander North

Girls 8u Free, 9th: Margaret Driscoll, Kate Barber, Andrea Morales, and Natalie Crowther

Boys 13-14 Free, 8th: James Piland, Jack Klopson, Jack Dupuis, and Donovan Kovalsky

Boys 15-18 Free, 15th: Cole Miller, Andrew Baker, John French, and Clark Bayer

That's pretty good suit coordination there...
Girls 15-18 Free, DQ: What? Yeah, you read that right- DQ. Apparently our final heat qualifying, record-holding team of super swimmers got DQ'ed. Admittedly, it happens to everyone, but I'm going to chalk this one up to another casualty of the storm. The fact is that by the time the Girls 15-18 Free event (the last one of the day) rolled around after the storm delay, it was basically total darkness at the pool. There were lights around the pool, but I was there on deck watching and couldn't tell who the swimmers were at that point because of the darkness. But, even through that darkness, one of the officials found enough wrong to DQ our girls for an inappropriate take-off? Really? I'm not normally one to question the officials (I don't want any fines coming down NFL-style from the management...)  but this one does seem a little fishy. I mean Juliana Skopp-Cardillo, Emily Makin, Gabby Greszler, and Sheridan Phalen are pretty accomplished. They are stalwart performers on their HS swims teams, NCAP, and for the Gators. But somehow they DQ'ed in this one? Things happen, of course, but it seems a little fishy to me. (Don't get me wrong... not questioning the official, don't want any fines... but... fishy. Very fishy.)

IDK who that guy in the back is, but A+ on the photobomb.
Anyway, in summary, the lightning and thunder brought about a delay to the meet and the rain brought some mud to the fields. A four-hour meet turned into six. Darkness became an issue, but eventually, we were able to finish all the events. And the Gators did great. How great, well, if you take all those race results and add up the points, the Gators finished in 8th place overall. EIGHTH! That's a pretty big deal. It ties for the highest position we've ever finished at All-Star Relays. (Note: we also finished eighth in 2013, but we sent 12 teams that year. This year's accomplishment was done with only 10 teams, meaning each team had to earn more points with relatively higher finishes per team.)  

And for just a little comparative analysis, and to toot our horn a little, if you will: 
  • The Gators finished ahead of two D1 teams. 
  • And the Gators finished ahead of every D2 team, except one. 
And how about the other local teams in the Fort Hunt area? Little Hunting Park came away with 68 points (which is a pretty impressive result from D11), Hollin Meadows finished with 20 points, Mansion House had 14, and Waynewood 12. The three remaining local pools didn't have any teams in the event this year... just showing how hard it is and what an honor just to make it!

And totaling up those scores in the "Tiger Woods versus the Field" category, you'll note that's 114 points for the Field (all the rest of Fort Hunt combined), and 230 for the Gators. That's full-on double up territory this year. Bragging rights sustained. Check.

The full results are here. And the pictures are here.

Great swimming. Go Gator All-Star Relays! 

Fly pics. Best pics. 

Friday, July 19, 2019

Memories of a Gator by Cole Miller

I showed up to my first day of swim with a pair of snorkel fins. I spent the majority of practice retrieving them when they fell off, all while trying to figure out what to do. I thought I knew what I was getting into, but then I entered my first meet. Oh. My. Gator. (haha puns!)

For the newer members of the gators, or those who haven’t known me as long, I’m actually an introvert. I know you’re thinking, “aren’t you the guy who dresses up in a onesie and does the Cotton-Eye Joe?” Well, yes, but I wasn’t always like that stylish devil. When I was young, I was the kid who stood in the back and just mouthed along to the cheers, and didn’t participate in spirit days because I always felt like I was going to embarrass myself (irony at its finest). I was a very introverted kid in an extroverted activity. Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVED to swim, but I didn’t understand the importance of team spirit.

It took me a while to warm-up to the team (pun absolutely intended), and thankfully I had some great friends to bolster me up. I can remember almost every relay I did with Colin Sunstead, Nick Dupuis, and Sean Jansen--full of energy and intensity. Not to mention all the wicked themes we had for Divisionals and All-Stars. The three of them helped me see how important teamwork and being a part of a team was. I had all my individual swims, but I felt that the relays really helped me put myself out there and get excited to race in meets.

However, most memories of those first five or so years have all blended together in a general recollection of time on the pool deck and traveling to meets. Most of my clearest and best memories are from the past four years when I was a teen coach—watching the Little Gators enjoy swimming (yes, 8&Unders, they are a magical experience), the teen nights, and even some of the more mundane practices. The biggest influence on the swimmer you see today (and why I wear a onesie) is my career as a coach because it forced me to put myself out there and be a leader for the kids in my lanes. I was inspired by the determination and heart in the swimmers to be the coach (or mascot) the team needed. It can even say it has helped me grow, I feel like I can take on almost any swimming (or social) challenge that 7-year old me would have dreaded. I can even now confidently strut around in a gator onesie.

So, from my heart, thank you to my fellow coaches, the Little Gators, Paul, and Laurel for helping craft the person I am today.