Gator Nation

Gator Nation

Monday, August 6, 2018

Season Finale: Individual All-Stars

For summer swimming, the All-Star meet in August is officially the end of the season. Queue the tears. Another fun, exciting, Gatorific summer of swimming has come to a close. Sad to see it go, but so happy that it happened.

Is it just me, or doesn't this photo make you think of all
those Olympian swimmers after winning their races? Poised.
Believe it or not, I wasn't a competitive swimmer growing up (or even a recreational one, for that matter). So, I don't really have a good eye for what to watch on any individual in a race. The technique and skill of excellent swimming escapes me.... Good turn? Okay, sure. If you say so. (Sorta looked like all the others...) A hitch in the stroke? Exactly. Ummm, maybe? Illegal scissor kick? Obviously (to you maybe). Great start... All right, that one I can usually identify.  So, I've never been drawn toward the "official" and "judge" positions as a volunteer, and I've settled in as a timer (and blogger) instead. (But we always need more officials, so if you have any interest whatsoever, then you should become one!)  Even though the technical aspect of swimming tends to go over my head, I still get totally engrossed in the drama of the competition itself. Great races are amazing to watch. And those great races are even more amazing to watch when there is a lot on the line. And there is a lot on the line at All-Stars. This is where the best-of-the-best throughout the entire NVSL come together for the final races of the year.

And guess what? They broadcast the meet on the internet! (Which, of course, you know since you've been reading the blog.) The joy of this whole internet broadcast thing meant we got to watch the races from the comfort of our own living room without having to worry about parking. We didn't watch the whole meet from start to finish, but we did see all the Gator races... which was a lot of the meet since we had swimmers in every stroke. It was pretty exciting. My kids enjoyed the opportunity to watch their friends swim and I got to feel the drama. We even watched some friends from Waynewood and Riverside Gardens... and rooted FOR them (I know, I know, don't hold it against me...). If you had a crazy, busy schedule on Saturday and missed any of the races, you can catch up on them all here, where the meet has been posted in its entirety.

And here is your surprise #1 All-Star Champion in
15-18 Freestyle!  Nice sneak-attack job Sheridan!
And we were treated to some terrific performances by our All-Stars. The most exciting one of the day turned out to be a bit unexpected! We knew there would be a good race by our Gator swimmer... but didn't quite understand just how great. Sheridan Phalen was seeded in the second heat of the 15-18 Freestyle. For a little background, there are three heats of each event, with the slower seed times going first. That allows the races to progressively build to a crescendo with the fastest times and top finishers normally going last. Sheridan was seeded 8th and therefore in the second heat. The top six seed times would be in the third and final heat. But, Sheridan had other ideas in mind. She jumped out to an early lead in her race and just kept going strong, finishing well ahead of the competitors in her heat with a zippy time of 27.57 seconds. Then like a pro golfer who finishes her final round early on Sunday, Sheridan went into the "clubhouse" to see how her time would stand up against the competitors in the final heat. The final race was tight, with all four of the top seeds hitting the wall within 0.1 seconds of each other. In fact, the top two seeds actually finished in a dead heat - a tie.... which would have necessitated crowning co-champions had their times not been 0.16 seconds SLOWER than Sheridan's. Boom. Sheridan Phalen, All-Star Champion. Bringing the speed from the second heat. Pretty cool. I actually heard a rumor that her dad gave her some pre-race advice to "go faster" ... sage advice from our past team rep! I'm going to try that one with my kids in the future!

The Ruppe. The Ruppe. The Ruppe is on fire.
There were lots of other great swims by the Gator All-Stars. Charlie Ruppe had another career best race cutting more time off of his Gator team record in the 50 Breaststroke-- lowering it to the new mark of 34.73. John French jumped up one position from his 17th seed and finished 16th in the 13-14 Backstroke. And similarly, Donovan Kovalsky jumped up a spot from 4th to 3rd in the 11-12 Fly. Taylor Makin was seeded 9th in the 13-14 Breast and finished 7th.  Parker Fulghum finished 15th in the 15-18 Free, improving from here 17th seed. And Liam Fore finished 18th in the 8 and under Fly.

And there was one other Gator race. It has been an awesome year observing Donovan Kovalsky's great season of swimming where he has crushed the record books at MVP and in the NVSL. But as they say, records are made to be broken. The NVSL website summarized this one well with their update, so I'm just going to quote it verbatim, "In the 11-12 Freestyle, Michael Mullen of Old Keene Mill stunned the crowd in an upset over the current record-holder, Donovan Kovalsky, finishing with a blazing kick and touching in 26.18. Donovan had just lowered the mark to 26.20 the week before." Crazy how these things happen... a record that had stood for 11 years gets broken twice by two different superstar swimmers in a week. Crazy.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯   Well, I, for one, am already looking forward to seeing the next onslaught on the record books in 2019.

Speed vs Speed. Two of the fastest 12 year old swimmers ever.
And a cool shot of the race start.
Great work and great races to all of our Gator All-Stars. They were all amazing to watch.

What a season.

Which brings us to the conclusion. I do have one last story to share. One of the other Gator parents told me a story about a conversation she had with her young swimmer recently. He was excited about all of the records getting broken this year by many of the older Gators and was checking out the board to see what times he needed to achieve in his favorite events to get his name up there. The times were outside of his reach... for now. And that Gator parent told her son, if you want to get your name up there on that record board, you can do it, but its going to take a lot of hard work... and probably more commitment than just swimming during the summer. Most swimmers with their names on that record board and most swimmers who represent MVP at All-Stars are year-round swimmers.

I think that was some pretty good advice. If your swimmer is starting to catch the swim bug, and is excited about being a part of this great team and wants to achieve higher levels of success, then getting involved in one of the winter programs is one very important step. The Gator 10 and under winter swim program at GW Rec is one option for the youngest Gators, and so are the NCAP and Fort Belvoir Swim Team (both US Swim Club programs in the local area) for older Gators or some of the younger crowd who are up for the bigger challenges. If you're not sure which program or what frequency of training is right for you, talk to the coaches, team reps, or any of the many Gator family who are participating in these programs.

Enjoy the rest of your summer. We'll be back with the Gator blog in the spring. And just keep swimming.

Go Gators!

Fly pictures make the best swim pictures. Even in the
last blog of the year. 

Friday, August 3, 2018

All-Stars Live Internet Stream

Want to watch your favorite All-Star Gator on Saturday? Want to let Grandma in California see the race? Do you just enjoy being part of the excitement, but can't make it to Little Rocky Run on Saturday?

Well, SwimNinja is live streaming the event, just like they did at the Division 3 Relay Carnival and the Individual Divisionals.

Watch here:

The order of events and Gators participating:

Individual Medley (Starts No Earlier Than 9am): Parker Fulghum (15-18 Girls), Taylor Makin (Note, Taylor is currently the 1st Alternate in 15-18 Girls... she may swim this event or may not depending on if there is one more scratch... TBD. She's definitely swimming Breaststroke.)

Free (NET 10am): Donovan Kovalsky (11-12 Boys), Sheridan Phalen (15-18 Girls)

Back (NET 11am): John French (13-14 Boys)

Breast (NET 12pm): Charlie Ruppe (13-14 Boys), Taylor Makin (15-18 Girls)

Fly (NET 1pm): Liam Fore (8 & under Boys), Donovan Kovalsky (11-12 Boys)

Note: Emily Makin (previously listed as one of the Gator qualifiers) has scratched from both of her events in order to compete in another meet and will not be swimming.

The full schedule and all the necessary info if you are going is on the last page of this public information sheet:

Tune in (or go!) and root on the Gators!

The Hard. (Divisional Championships)

Jimmy Dugan (as played by Tom Hanks) had two all-time great lines in the movie "A League of Their Own." The first was, "Are you crying? There's no crying. There's no crying in baseball." Great line and if you haven't heard it or used it a million times, you've never been around baseball (or people who like to quote movies). That line is a funny one and can usually get a chuckle out of any crowd. The other epic line from the movie is not funny, but rather inspirational. When Dottie wants to quit because it is too hard to play baseball and have a family, Jimmy responds, "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great."

That last one sums up the work and payoff of sport... a lot of blood, sweat, and tears... year in and year out.... sacrifices... commitments... it's all in there. And if there is any sport that it applies to perfectly, its swimming. The work our kids put in all summer, the early mornings or late evenings in the pool all winter, the dry land training, the hours and hours of dedicated effort.... "If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great."  Yup. That's pretty much it.

All that hard work came to its annual summer conclusion at the Divisional Championships held at the Hunt Valley pool on Saturday. Needless to say, the Gators hard work payed off.

Hard to beat a "passing of the torch" photo of this quality.
Let's deal with the elephant in the room first. I'm sure all of our readers were at the annual swim banquet and awards ceremony on Saturday night, so I don't have my usual dramatic build-up for the blog. We all either (1) saw it happen on Saturday morning, or (2) heard the story recanted on Saturday night, or (3) read about it in the Washington Post.  That elephant was Donovan Kovalsky breaking the 11 year old NVSL record in the 11-12 Boys Freestyle. We've been talking about how it was in the realm of possibility since early in the season when Donovan first posted times that were within striking distance of the big record. He then broke lots of records all season long, creeping ever closer to the big one... and finally pushed through the mark on Saturday. And not just by a couple hundredths... he crushed it by a quarter second, touching the wall in 26.20 seconds.

That feeling when you swim so fast the internet
can't even keep up. 
Now, while most people are probably awed by the 26.20 second
record time,  the astute timers out there are most impressed by the fact
that they got a double! Go timers! (Yeah, yeah... nice job Donovan, too.) 

We discussed lots of records in the blog this year.... because the team has set so many. Donovan himself has set or re-set records 16 times. But this one is a little bit bigger than all the others. This is the NVSL Freestyle record. NVSL records are held by USA National Team members and NCAA champion swimmers. EVERYBODY swims Freestyle and EVERYBODY takes a shot at that record. And everybody is a lot of people. Many have tried. Yet, very few have owned the record over the years. And, now it belongs to Donovan. Just how fast was that time? To put it in perspective, it was fast enough to qualify Donovan for All-Stars in the 13-14 year old age group!

It's all about the face. Can you say, "Intense?" The hard
makes is great.

There were lots of other Gators seeing the results of all their hard work on Saturday. Two more Gators broke their own team records. The adrenaline and competition at Divisionals has that kind of effect! John French cut his own 13-14 Backstroke record (by 0.31) and Charlie Ruppe did the same for his 13-14 Breaststroke record (by 0.24). And for the rest of the team, fully 55 out of our 97 swims were personal bests. Reminder: the team leaders are the ones swimming at Divisionals. These are the people with the best times to begin with. So when they lower them, its that much more of a big deal! At the top of the list of time cuts, Helen Milito and Parker Fulghum both dropped their 100 IM times by more than 4 seconds, and Jack Klopson dropped his 50 Breast by over 2 seconds. That's rising to the occasion!

Butterfly photos make the best swim photos.

We had three Division 3 Champions: Donovan Kovalsky in the 11-12 Free (obviously) and Fly, and Emily Makin in the 13-14 IM.

Silver medalists included: Sheridan Phalen (Free), John French (Back), Matthew Makin (Breast), Abigail Litonjua (Breast), Charlie Ruppe (Breast), Emily Makin (Breast), Taylor Makin (Breast), Liam Fore (Fly), Ginny Grubbs (Fly), and Charlie Ruppe (Fly).

To all Little Gators: Please take not of the consistent
theme of intensity on these super Gator swimmers.

Taking home bronze medals were: Liam Fore (Free), Sean Kovalsky (Free), Gavin Moore (Back), Shaan Nagda (Breast), Matthew Makin (IM), and James Piland (IM).

Whew. That's a lot of hard work being rewarded.

More Fly Photos = Better Blog.
We had seven Gators make the cut for All-Stars (in nine events) on August 4th at Little Rocky Run. As a reminder, individual All-Stars pits the swimmers with the top-18 times in all of the NVSL against each other in a final individual championship meet.

Who made it? Sheridan Phalen (Free), Emily Makin (IM and Breast), Taylor Makin (Breast), Donovan Kovalsky (Free and Fly), John French (Back), Charlie Ruppe (Breast), and Liam Fore (Fly).

And in some late breaking news, we've had two more swimmers get added to the All-Star heat sheets as Parker Fulghum has been added to the 15-18 IM and Taylor Makin has moved up to be an alternate in that event. That makes eight Gators in 11 events!

Token mother-daughter final Divisionals emotion evoking photo.
(Note: Blogger apologizes and takes no responsibility
for any tears created by this photo, Talley.)
All Top-6 finishers came away with medals and the Top-12 get ribbons from the NVSL. Full results from the MVP team are on the website here.

Lots and lots of great pictures (hundreds!) are on the website here. And don't forget to check out the always awesome end-of-season Gator slideshows that are there, too.

And this is a good time to remind everyone about winter swim. You, too, can be a part of all of this excitement and glory! Be on the look out for an upcoming email from the team reps going over the winter options. And remember, swimming is hard, but the hard is was makes it great!

Go Gators! And good luck at All-Stars!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Confessions of a Blogger - Seeding and Division Placement

Ok, I'm going to come clean here. I lied. Just a little. To be honest, I was just trying to play up the drama thing. Drama is compelling. That part is true. Come to think of it, I don't think I actually lied... I just didn't reveal all of the information. Time to come clean.

In the summary of our last "A" meet against Donaldson Run, I said that it was the closest score of any meet in Division 3 all season. That was 100% true. And while I didn't explicitly say so, I tried to imply that it was the most dramatic win in the Division also. That is that part that wasn't entirely true. But to stick with our Star Wars theme from last week, I'll quote some Obi Wan here, "You're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view."

If you didn't know what you missed, then it was the most dramatic win of the season. But the reality is, that from the overall picture of Division 3, there was an EVEN MORE dramatic meet this year. But, due to timing and the fact that probably none of us were there, we didn't notice.

First, some background: a little known fact is that the NVSL Divisional schedule is set up based on forecasted rankings of the teams. The #1 and #2 teams are supposed to meet in the final week, as well as 3/4 and 5/6. It works out a lot in D1. Chesterbrook was the pre-season #1, and Overlee was the #2. They were both undefeated coming into the final week and Chesterbrook won to take home the championship according to the script. In other divisions, sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't. It's harder to make pre-season predictions down the table. For D3, technically Hunt Valley vs Hunter Mill was supposed to be the 1 vs 2 finale... but it didn't turn out that way for two main reasons: (1) Hunter Mill wasn't quite as strong as predicted this year, and (2) High Point Pool was much stronger than anyone anticipated. This resulted in TWO OTHER meets being the de facto dramatic battles for the D3 Championship trophy much earlier in the season.

The first meet we'll talk about involved us, as it was our meet against Hunt Valley in Week 3. As discussed previously in the blog following that meet, we had a good chance to win if the cards fell a little better for us, but alas, it was not meant to be. The meet didn't seem that dramatic because the score wasn't as close as it should have been (read the blog to review the details). In hindsight however, had we won that one, we'd have ended up in a 3-way tie for first with High Point Pool and Hunt Valley. Another little known fact is that there is no tie-breaker in the NVSL, so a three-way tie results in three trophies for three champions. So, on the bright side, we saved the NVSL some money.
And to be clear, while winning trophies is nice, we do have a lot already (go take a peek in the pavilion). We can't win them all.

Anyway, the real whopper of a meet, the grand-daddy of drama, occurred while none of us probably noticed at the time. It was High Point Pool versus Hunt Valley way back in Week 2. You'll recall that HPP came into the Swamp in Week 1 and sort of shocked us with the big win. I'm sure Hunt Valley saw that result, so was probably a little more prepared, but still had their hands full. To give you a quick meet summary, the teams split Freestyle, then High Point opened up a 5 point lead in Backstroke, and followed by adding 30 points to the lead in a dominating Breaststroke. Hunt Valley recovered some of that in the Fly, but still went into the relays TRAILING by nearly 20 points, 171-189. That meant Hunt Valley needed to win 8 out of 12 of the relays to pull off the comeback. A pretty huge task any week. Then to add to the drama, as the relays began, High Point Pool won 3 out of the first 4 relays to open up their lead even more to 204-176. With eight more relays to go, HPP only needed to win two in order to take the win and (as we know now) win the Division. But Hunt Valley would not be denied- they rattled off EIGHT STRAIGHT relay wins to come from behind and win the meet. What a clutch performance by those relay teams! I can only imagine the excitement and intensity amongst the swimmers and parents as the momentum built. That was a dramatic win for the ages, and as was the deciding factor in Hunt Valley taking the Division 3 crown this year. It's just a little bit too bad that it was in Week 2 instead of Week 5. Drama is always a bit more dramatic when it happens at the end.

What does this all mean for the Gators and the rest of Division 3 leading into next year? I'm pretty sure it means that both HPP and HV are moving up to D2. And the Gators will remain in D3 along with Hunter Mill. We'll probably be joined by Dowden Terrace (1-4) coming down from D2 as well as Crossepointe (5-0) and Oakton (5-0) both undefeated and likely moving up from D4 and D5 respectively. There will also be a sixth team... either Vienna Woods (4-1 in D4) or Vienna Aquatic (0-5 in D2). My analysis is that Vienna Woods will get the call up to D3 and Vienna Aquatic will drop all the way to D4 instead. We'll see. This is all just speculation. The actual seeding meeting happens in February.

And with that, we are now at the point of the swim season where the "team" format is over. The meets are no longer scored with resulting wins and losses in the standings, instead each swimmer is looking to achieve individual glory (while representing the Gators, of course). So, good luck to all of those swimmers heading to Divisional Championships on Saturday. As a reminder to readers, each swimmer's time at the Divisional Championships is the only determining factor for who gets into All-Stars in August. Previous seed times are nice and may look good on paper, but every swimmer needs to show up and hit those times at the Divisional meet to make the cut. We'll definitely have a few Gator All-Stars, but the big question is how many? And I'm sure we're going to see lots of personal best times and maybe even a few more Gator (and perhaps NVSL?) records broken. Check back later to see how it goes!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Thunderweek extended.... or the shortest RITS ever

Last week was Thunderweek. Read about it in the blog if you missed it. But apparently the thunder decided to hang around a little bit longer into this week and spoil the Romp In The Swamp. Also joining thunder was his good friend "flash flood warning" which also doesn't make for the greatest meet environment. So, what we got was the shortest meet of all time. A couple of hours to set up, warm up, get everybody into positions, get a great national anthem rendition, then.... a little more than 2 events and done. About 10 minutes and it was over. On the bright side, at least we were able to finish the 8 & under Freestyle events for both the boys and girls. And that's an important one... it sort of serves as the minor league baseball game, letting us see all the talent that is going to burst onto the scene next year. So, at least we got that in. But that was about it. Results are here.

The Romp in the Swamp is always a fun (and final for most) meet every year. It is geared toward the younger Gator swimmers with the older and Divisional swimming Gators doing all the jobs normally done by the adults. It's too bad we couldn't get the whole thing in, but something is better than nothing.

Quick meet. Check.

Quick blog. Check.

The End.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Fastest in the Fort: The IM Invitational

Historical perspective is important. My kids have been swimming at MVP for seven years now. During that time, we have never lost the IM Invitational. I just assumed that was always the case. But, I was wrong. Like many things in sports, the recency bias had affected me. In fact, we had only begun the "Great Gator Winning Streak" two years prior to the time we moved here. Yes, it's true, the Gators have taken home the IMI trophy every year since 2010. We did win some before that, but not very much. In fact, for most of the preceding years all the way back into the 1980's, it was Waynewood who dominated this event, accumulating a total of 13 victories back in the day. Riverside Gardens has also won six times. As the sands of time have shifted, so have the relative levels of Fort Hunt area swim power. The last decade or so has belonged to the Gators- eight wins in a row and 10 out of the last 12.  But, all good things eventually come to an end, right? Waynewood was once in this position only to be displaced by Mount Vernon Park. Is this the year that the curtain falls on the era of Gators? Would the streak be broken and a new power rise to the top of the local swim scene?

All the most dedicated Gators stayed until the
very end so they could pose with the trophy. 
No. We won. But, just remember, it's not automatic. The kids had to train all winter and all summer and then swim really fast on Monday to do it. Staying on top is hard work.

The win this year comes as a particularly special milestone. Not only is it our ninth straight title, it is also the team's 13th overall... finally pulling even with Waynewood for the all-time lead. Next year is going to be the rubber match. It's going to be hosted at their house. Like they say, "To be the man, you've got to beat the man." I'm looking forward to the challenge, and I think you know who I'm betting on.

But enough about the past and the future, how about the present? For those new to the team, how about a refresher on what the IM Invitational is?

Here's the basics:

The Event, IM = Individual Medley, which is a race where each competitor swims all four strokes (Fly, then Back, then Breast, then Free). Note: 8 & under actually just swim Fly, not the full IM at this meet. Back in the day, 8 & under didn't swim Fly at all in regular meets because there were not enough younglings who could do it. That's changed, thanks to modern science, nutrition, and competitive parenting. But, even though they do swim Fly in regular meets now, a full IM is a bit of a stretch for most of the little ones.

The Teams: Lots of them- Riverside Gardens, Waynewood, Little Hunting Park, Hollin Hills, Hollin Meadows, Highland Park, Mansion House, Hayfield Farm, Highland Lake, and Mount Vernon Yacht Club all participated this year. We've had 13 teams in some years, and this year we had 11. Each team sends their top three swimmers in every age group, then any remaining slots are filled with alternates based on quality times. MVP tends to get a lot of alternates in because our 4th, 5th, and 6th (etc) swimmers are still very good. Our team is pretty deep in case you haven't noticed.

Gator vs Gator

The Scoring: This is very similar to the Relay scoring system that I've described before with the top eight finishers earning points. 10 points to the winner, then 8, 6, 5, 4,3 2, 1. There is one caveat, which is apparently called the "Waynewood Rule" from back in the day when they were the Kings/Queens of the IM Mountain. The caveat is that no team can earn points for more than three swimmers in any event, so if a fourth of fifth swimmer from the same pool finish in the top eight, their points slide down the ladder and go to the next swimmer on the score sheet. (We had this happen  in the 13-14 Boys this year, with four of our swimmers all finishing in the top eight.)

Breaststrokers really cater to our photographers. They keep
popping up every few yards just to have their pictures taken.

The Stakes
: Mostly bragging rights. Swimmers get to be the fastest in the land, and teams get to be "Kings/Queens of the IM Mountain." (Go back and read the stuff above, if you missed it.) But there is one more key outcome for some of the swimmers as this is their last chance to improve their IM times and possibly qualify for Divisionals next weekend. Note: the IM is not an event in the normal "A" meets all season, BUT, it is one of the five events for Divisionals and Individual All-Stars. The times for swimmers to earn a spot in the IM at Divisionals come from events like this.

Also pictured, the rare "Pascarell" Rose,
which is often only photographed at victorious meets. 
The Results: As mentioned above, MVP scored the most points (79.5) and took home the trophy. Our nearest competitor was Waynewood with 53 points, followed closely by Hollin Meadows in third with 52. All tolled, we had 60 swimmers splash in this meet- 10 younglings doing the Fly and 50 doing a full 100 meter Individual Medley. Out of those 60, 38 of them posted a best time and 17 earned points for the team. We also had five DQ's. As I mentioned, the IM is pretty tough. Lots of strokes, lots of distance, lots of required technique. It's tough, especially for younger swimmers, to keep it all together for the full 100 yards.

To be honest, with so many swimmers posting best times, it would take me too long to type them all up here, so I'm just going to link you the the fancy PDF document on our website which has all of the Gator results formatted very nicely. If you want to see how everyone did, there is also a link to the results from the whole meet which includes results from all 11 teams.

So, while I'm not going to post them all (click on the link, it's super easy... I promise), I will hit a couple highlights:

  • We had two event winners who are officially the "Fastest in the Fort": Donovan Kovalsky won the 11-12 Boys and Emily Makin was took the 13-14 Girls (both were very impressive victories, too, with margins of 4 and 7 seconds respectively). 
  • We also had two runners-up, with Sheridan Phalen taking the figurative silver medal for the 15-18 Girls and Liam Fore finishing second in the 8 & under Fly. 
  • Interestingly, we didn't have anyone finish third at any age. (I guess it's probably not that interesting, but it is true.) 
  • We maxed out "pointers" by getting three swimmers in the top-eight in three of the age groups: 11-12 Boys, 11-12 Girls, and 13-14 Boys. As I mentioned before, the 13-14 Boys actually got FOUR swimmers "in the money" to earn points, but could only count three of them due to the aforementioned "Waynewood Rule." 

All in all, a pretty solid outing. I'm already getting excited about next year's rubber match. Who's going to be "First to Fourteen"... ;-)

Go Gators!

The elusive IMI Fly. Fly pics are the best swim pics.

Monday, July 23, 2018

We Love Drama! "A" Meet at Donaldson Run

Dude... we totally have a Darth Vader
statue to highlight our Star Wars theme.
Gators are AWESOME. 
Drama is good. Drama creates tension. Drama adds pressure. Drama creates excitement. Drama exists in many walks of life, but it is most welcome in the sporting world. Sure, there is something interesting about crazy blow-out wins, such as the NFC versus AFC Super Bowls in the 80's and early 90's. They were all NFC blow-outs. Huge wins. They were remarkable in that they were so dominating, but they really weren't that fun to watch in the moment. Even when my team was in it, I tuned out by halftime and just had fun at the Super Bowl party, but didn't really enjoy the lack of drama in the game. Drama comes when the contests are close and each participant must perform at a high level to tip the game to victory. One of the reasons Tom Brady gets a lot of positive press as a Quarterback is that so many of his wins were dramatic- tight victories held or stolen from arguably better teams at times. Dramatic wins are memorable.

This week we had a pretty dramatic meet at Donaldson Run. In fact, it was the closest score of any meet in all of Division 3 this year. Not to spoil the buildup, but it literally came down to the final relays before it was over. We knew both teams were pretty even and we've always had close meets against the Thunderbolts in the past. The drama was heightened by the fact that we came in with a record of 2-2, and a win put us over .500, while a loss put us below. Even a tie was in play up until the end, and it nearly turned out that way.

Dress like a Wookie, get your picture in
the Blog. Its a rule. 
The meet started off running in our favor, with the Gators taking the advantage in the Freestyle 50-40, and then adding to that lead with a 51-39 score in the Backstroke. After two events, the drama didn't look like it was going to materialize in this meet, until the Thunderbolts charged back in the Breaststroke... winning 54-36 to cut the Gator lead down to just 4!  That happened to be the most lopsided point difference for the Gators in Breast all season. Of all the times... why now?! Drama. The Gators were able to stop the slide and edge them in the Fly 48-42. So MVP headed into the relays with a 10 point lead (185-175) and needed to win five out of the 12 relays to secure a tie or take six for the win.

The odds seemed reasonable, but the Thunderbolts were not going to go down quietly. (Pun intended.) The teams split the first few relays, and then Donaldson Run came on strong with three straight to close the gap heading into 15-18 Girls Medley. At that point the score was MVP 205-DR 200. If DR won the final three, they would pull off the come-from-behind upset victory. The drama stage was set...

Yeah, we have both sides of the Force. Take that.
The 15-18 Girls Medley was a terrific race to watch. Donaldson Run's team was motivated and everyone knew the status... the meet was on the line. In fact, through the first three legs, the adrenaline and drumbeats from the crowd helped push the Thunderbolt girls to nearly a body length lead on the Gators! These were some of MVP's best swimmers, but somehow, in the drama packed moment, DR was holding them off and looking to steal a victory! But then, the anchor leg came through and turned this one into the MVP Race of the Week. With 50 meters to go to reel her in, Sheridan Phalen did just that... turning in a spectacular performance in the Freestyle leg to overtake the Thunderbolt swimmer and pull out the victory by nearly a second! Score MVP 210-DR 200.

With two races to go, DR could still force a tie by winning the remaining relays, but the Boys Mixed Age Free Relay (Donovan Kovalsky, Sean Kovalsky, James Piland, and Clark Bayer) finished things off in the next event to give the Gators the meet victory, 215-205.

Drama! It was exciting to see the Gators build the lead, and then to nervously watch as the Thunderbolts rallied to make that final run at the end. We've really had a great season of closely matched meets, and this one ended up being the closest of them all. 

Umm.... I'm just gonna leave this here. 
The Gators pulled out three Clean Sweeps this week in the 9-10 Boys Free (Sean Kovalsky, Joe Mills, and Sam Bruce), the 9-10 Boys Fly (Sam Bruce, Gavin Moore, and Sean Kovalsky), and the 11-12 Girls Breast (Elizabeth Moorman, Caroline Baker, and Cassidy Crowther). The 9-10 Boys earned the honor of Age Group of the Week. The won every race they were in on this day, shutting out the Thunderbolt boys- in addition to the two cleans sweeps, Gavin Moore won the Back, and Shaan Nagda won the Breast, and Gavin, Shaan, Sam, and Sean teamed up in the Relay to round out the ownership of every victory on the day.

Look at that lead just from the start! 
Choosing the Swimmer of the Week was a challenge, as always. Two of the 13-14 Boys had terrific meets (as usual) with Charlie Ruppe (Breast, Fly) and John French (Free, Back) both winning each of their events on the day against strong competition while swimming probable All-Star worthy times. It was a close vote, but John ends up winning the Swimmer of the Week title this week, with an upset victory in the Freestyle and a new MVP record time in the Backstroke (cutting his own mark to 31.47) tipping the scales in his favor.

This was our final dual meet of the season and our third victory. The Gators finished at 3-2, solidly in 3rd place and with a near guarantee to return to Division 3 next year. After the IM Invitational (Mon) and the Romp in the Swamp (Wed), the Divisional Championships will be held next Saturday. Okay, admittedly, I'm starting to feel a bit depressed that the season is ending. It's all gone so fast! I need to remind myself (and you) of what I tell my kids sometimes when they are upset about endings, "Don't be sad that its over, smile because it happened." And this is an easy one to smile about.

Go Gators.

Butterfly pictures make the best swim pictures.