2016 Boys Swim Coach of the Year: Knight led Warriors to historical swim season

Joe Knight

STEPHENS CITY — Sherando coach Joe Knight knew it could be a pretty good year for his boys swimming team before the season started, but it still managed to exceed his expectations.

The Warriors finished ninth in the Group 4A state boys meet, the best in school history.

Knight said it all started with a dedicated group of leaders.

“Jeremy Linaburg was instrumental when it came to organizing and maintaining our preseason program, helped us with recruiting and that really got the ball started,” Knight said. “We started probably two weeks earlier than we normally do with our preseason conditioning. We were on track a lot doing a lot of running and we were in the weight room a lot.”

Knight said Linaburg and fellow senior Ethan Medrano set a high standard as far as work ethic for the team and it caught on.

Knight, the Northern Virginia Daily’s 2015-16 Boys Swimming Coach of the Year, said that the team had a lot of success early in the season, which set the tone for the rest of the year.

After defeating a tough Turner Ashby squad on the road, Sherando went to the Sweet Inspirations meet at Shepherd University and won that as well. Not only did they win the meet, but they set four school records, two on relays.

“We were ready to swim that day, we really were,” Knight said. “We always like to get to that pool at least once a year and the game plan is to try to qualify as many relay teams and as many individuals as we could to meet the state standards.”

The 200 medley relay team broke the school and pool record in the very first swim of the day.

“Once they realized what they had done the energy level went through the roof. They were really excited about what they had accomplished,” Knight said. “…We ended up winning the meet, defeating eight or nine other teams in that meet, and walked away with setting four pool records — two relay records and two individual records.

“They were on a high and they were on a roll after that. There was no turning back after that. As a coach it was kind of hard to keep them on the ground.”

The next big moment in the season came at the Conference 21 West meet, where the Warriors won by 12 points over Woodgrove.

Knight said the team swam well, but it was a couple of the younger guys who played a key role in the success as well as the veterans.

Junior Alex Ferguson finished seventh in the 500 free and sophomore Heston Phillips placed eighth in the same event. The two combined for 12 points in the event.

“It was those kids who aren’t the marquee swimmers we normally have that made the difference in that meet for us,” Knight said.

Sherando had qualified two of their three relays into state early in the season, but the 400 free relay didn’t qualify until the regional meet. Knight said he decided to switch the lineup and it paid off as they qualified in the team’s final chance to qualify all three relays.

Knight said they qualified more swimmers than they ever had on the boys side for the state meet. Things went great in the morning for the team, but they didn’t do as well as they would have liked in the finals in the evening.

“It was just an unbelievable morning of swimming for Sherando High school,” Knight said. “Then we had five hours worth of downtime before we had to come back and swim in the evening and that really affected our swimmers. But everybody else swam really well so we can’t use that as an alibi or as an excuse either. That’s just the way it turned out.

“We were happy for the entire weekend and the way the state meet actually turned out in terms of our final placing.”

The Warriors have three seniors on the boys side — Linaburg, Medrano and Jake Adams — and knight said the team will definitely miss them.

Knight said this season should be a good building block for future years.

“We recognize now that for next year we’re going to have to move some people around,” Knight said. “They’re going to have to assume different roles for us, and we’ll be really working and focusing on that part of our swim program going forward.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com