Knight guides Warriors to another solid season

Joe Knight

STEPHENS CITY — Sherando swim coach Joe Knight knew it wasn’t going to be an easy year for the girls team.

Sherando has had a lot of good swimmers come through the school, especially on the girls side, but the team lost a lot to graduation. Still, the Warriors were able to put together another solid year, and the future looks bright.

“We had some modest success throughout the year,” Knight said. “I think we’re starting to lay the foundation to rebuild our program and bring it back up to the level where we want it.”

Knight said one of the highlights of the season was in the Sweet Inspirations Invitational held at Shepherd University on Dec. 6. The Warriors finished second in the girls meet in a 12-team field, which he said included some very strong teams.

He said they had quite a few events where they placed higher than they were seeded, which led them to the second-place finish behind Millbrook. One of those came in the 200-yard freestyle relay, where Knight said they were seeded fifth or sixth.

“It came down to the last swimmer, [Sherando’s] Laura Ferguson versus Millbrook,” Knight said. “It turned out to be a neck-and-neck race right down to the end and Laura prevailed, and we won that relay race and that really moved us up in the standings.

“For us to finish second to Millbrook in that meet was very rewarding. Then the kids seemed to grow for that point on.”

Knight, The Northern Virginia Daily’s 2015 Girls Swimming Coach of the Year, said that a big key to his success in the 10 years that he has been coaching has come from the summer program, which is funded by the county.

“That’s where it all begins. We have an excellent, excellent summer program,” Knight said. “All of the kids who swim with us have come from there. … [The parents] have been very supportive, very encouraging. I couldn’t ask more as a high school coach to kind of feel that support and that encouragement from the parents that we have associated with the swim team. So, a very rewarding feeling to have that kind of backing and support.”

Knight said because so many of the swimmers come through that program from an early age they already know what to expect when they get to high school, which makes things easier.

This year Knight had a new assistant coach in Stonewall Jackson graduate Megan Roberts. Knight said Roberts was a perfect fit to the program.

“That was very rewarding to see how well Megan stepped right into the role,” Knight said. “Megan turned out to be a very valuable asset in terms of communication and rapport with the kids. The kids all loved her and would do anything for her. So that working relationship certainly helps develop our program as well.”

Ferguson said that she will never forget how Knight was willing to spend extra workout sessions with her to help her become better throughout the season.

“It’s going to be really hard, after all the years that he’s helped me, I’m going to have to say goodbye. He gave me so much,” Ferguson said. “He’s meant everything to the team. I don’t even have the words for it.”

Knight said he enjoys coaching and especially the relationships developed with the athletes.

“I really enjoy watching kids grow and mature and start to appreciate and realize their roles in life,” Knight said. “I really enjoy that. It’s a bittersweet day for me when they graduate. I see them all out there on the field, when we graduate and it’s a pretty sad day. It’s tough. It’s really tough to say goodbye to a lot of them.”

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