Handley women’ swimming earns best state finish in program history | Winchester Star
Led by a runner-up from newcomer Grace Morgan in the 500-yard freestyle, the Handley girls’ swim team finished ninth at the Class 4 State Meet on Tuesday at the Christiansburg Aquatic Center.
The judges scored 104 points for the highest state score in the history of the girls’ program. Blacksburg won with 450.5 points and Monacan was second of 19 teams with 237 points.
Morgan recorded a time of 5 minutes and 4.37 seconds to earn All-State Honors (Top 8), finishing only behind Patrick Henry newcomer Amanda Barnard (5: 03.71) in the 500 series. This result is the highest ever for a Handley girl at the state meeting.
Other all-state performances for the Handley girls were achieved by Morgan in the 200 Free (fifth in 1: 55.52); in the second year Hailey Brown in the 100 butterflies (sixth in 1: 00.15) and 500 free (seventh in 5: 16.01); the 400-free relay team of sophomore Sullivan Morefield, Brown, newbies Laura Salley and Morgan (sixth in 3: 53.33); and the 200-free relay team that consisted of the same four girls (eighth in 1: 47.22).
Junior Henry Fowler was the only Handley boy to compete. He earned All-State Honors by finishing sixth in 5: 00.18 in the 500 free.
In a phone interview on Wednesday, Handley manager Tag Grove said he told his team at the first meeting of the season how happy they were to have the chance to compete this season. It wasn’t safe until the Winchester School Board voted on Jan. 7 so Handley could begin participating in interscholastic sports immediately.
“We spoke with gratitude to participate in this season,” said Grove. “Henry and Chris [Stearns] spoke at the school board meeting for allowing children to swim and we are grateful to the school board. “
Grove said dealing with all COVID-19 logs makes things difficult at times, but he was impressed with the way his swimmers handled everything.
“We couldn’t be more proud of where we ended up,” said Grove. “Where we ended up with the girls in terms of placement in states is really just a bonus. It was a different season, but we made it and the kids are ahead. “
Morgan – the region 4C runner-up in the 500cc race – finished third at the state meeting for the event. She produced a time that was 4.01 seconds faster than her previous season best.
“I’m just very excited for her,” Grove said. “She was so close to winning this thing. you and [Barnard] Art started and was pretty far ahead of everyone else. Grace actually attended [Barnard’s] Shoulder all the way we talked about. Don’t go crazy, just keep the pace. Then at the end of the race, the last 150, 200 really start building it up and putting some pressure on [Barnard] to see if she could swim faster, and the girl matched [Morgan].
“But to join this meeting as a newcomer and become runner-up is pretty impressive. It has definitely been a big part of our success this season. She is a great leader despite being a newbie. The rest of the kids look up to her and we count on it [her leadership] as much as their talents in the pool. “
Brown – a transfer from Fairfax – was seeded ninth for the 100 butterfly. She moved up three places by swimming 1.54 seconds faster than her season PR.
“She’s been dealing with an elbow injury most of the year,” said Grove. “She had to limit her training with both Handley and Winchester [Swim Team]but she does the best she can while she can in training.
“She’s someone who likes to get up on the blocks and just race, and she’s done a great job on the run. She was faster in the 500 but I really appreciate her efforts because you really have to be in top shape for this race. With the things she couldn’t in practice, it is a real honor for her to still end up where she did. “
Each of the relay teams improved their start times.
The 400-free relay team matched its starting ranking, recording a time that was 0.92 better than its PR. Brown had the fastest split with 55.72 in the second leg and Morgan was not far behind with 55.89.
According to Grove, He was very impressed by Morefield (1: 03.26) and Salley (58.46) in the season. Salley dropped three seconds from her 400 season split from the Region 4C meeting.
“We worked to get Sullivan’s head a little deeper in the water and she did it,” said Grove. “I didn’t get a chance to remind her before the race because the swimmers were separated from the coaches, but she looked really good.
“And Laura Salley is just a tough boy. She will always be a swimmer where the bigger the situation the more she will improve. Our squadrons would not have made it to states without them. She just got in there and swam as hard as possible and did a great job for us. “
The 200-free relay team was placed in 10th place and moved up to eighth place by swimming exactly one second faster than its PR. Morgan had the team’s fastest split, finishing with a time of 25.84.
Fowler was set free in seventh for the 500. He moved up one place, losing 5.75 seconds less than his season PR.
Grove said, looking at last year’s results, he suggested to Fowler, who had competed in the 200 Free and 100 in the postseason last year, that the 500 Free would be his best way to make it to the state meeting and once to have success he got there. (With no state qualifying times allowed this year, swimmers couldn’t experiment as much this season.)
On Tuesday, Fowler took advantage of this decision again.
“We did some pace work, some 50s that made him feel really good that he had to be about 30 seconds [for each 50] to achieve his goal, ”said Grove. “He went out after that and was locked up. He was at his pace all the way and he got strong.
“He was really happy about it. And almost as soon as he was done, he said to me, “Now we have to be under five minutes.” He’s ready for the future, however [Tuesday] crowned a really good season for him. He worked really hard to get where he is. “
Blacksburg won the boys’ meeting with 375 points and Hannover came second with 222 points. The judges were 22nd out of 23 evaluation teams with 13 points.