By Jeff Nations
The days may be numbered for the individual medley as part of Quinn Blankenship's swimming repertoire.
The Randolph-Macon Academy sophomore has had plenty of success in the 200 IM in the past, but heading into this season Blankenship was more interested in shaving time off her 500-yard freestyle and perhaps picking up another freestyle event to go with it.
Blankenship might have found that second individual event in last week's meet at Fredericksburg Academy. Swimming the 200-meter freestyle for the first time all season, Blankenship won with a state-qualifying time of 2 minutes, 26.14 seconds. Of course, she had no idea until R-MA coach Michael Williams told her afterward that she'd just picked up her fourth state qualifying time.
"I didn't even know until Mr. Williams told me," said Blankenship, who also added a second-place finish in the 400-meter freestyle that night to earn The Northern Virginia Daily's Female Athlete of the Week honor for the week of Jan. 19-25.
Blankenship has also qualified for the upcoming Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association (VISAA) state meet in the 100 free, the 500 free and the 200 IM. She can only swim in two individual events at states, and right now Blankenship is leaning toward the 500 free and 200 free.
"I love that event," Blankenship said of the 200 free. "It's one of my favorites, that and the 500 free. I definitely think I'm better at freestyle than the other strokes."
Williams said Blankenship and the rest of the Yellow Jackets have struggled a bit in swimming predominantly in meter pools this season. This weekend's Delaney Athletic Conference meet at the Freedom Aquatic Center in Manassas is a yard pool. The VISAA state meet (Feb. 14-15) will also be held at the Freedom Center.
"She's been doing good," Williams said of Blankenship. "The biggest challenge we have is swimming in so many meter pools and not yard pools. Quinn is used to prepping for yard pools, and that's what really counts for our DAC meet and the state meet."
Blankenship said she's looking forward to the spacious deck at the Freedom Center after a season full of cramped quarters at area private school facilities.
Williams said Blankenship has nonetheless made great strides this season, with ample assistance from her coaches with her club team, Strasburg-based Valley Swim Team Gators. Blankenship regularly practices with that team at Signal Knob Recreation Center as well as putting in laps at R-MA's home pool.
"Her coaches at Signal Knob have been doing incredible work with her," Williams said. "I give all the credit to Quinn and them. We're just fortunate to benefit from having her on our team."
Blankenship credited her teammates with making this a fun season for her, including the Yellow Jackets' bevy of up-and-coming middle school swimmers that she helps coach a bit at practice.
"The team's been doing well," Blankenship said. "We're not a big school and we don't win every meet, but everyone's improving. And also we're lucky to have all the middle schoolers."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>