Falcons’ Funkhouser wins two swim titles, sets state record in 100 free

Ashley Funkhouser

WOODSTOCK – Central High School’s Ashley Funkhouser made history last year when she became the first high school swimmer in Shenandoah County to win a Virginia High School League state title. Her encore performance on Wednesday was even more impressive.

Funkhouser successfully defended her Group 2A championship in the girls 50-yard freestyle at the Christiansburg Aquatic Center, then added a title in the 100 free while setting a new state meet record with her time of 54.28 seconds.

“It was a different experience than it was last year,” Funkhouser said Thursday afternoon. “Last year I went in (seeded) sixth I think and I wasn’t able to see how well I was going to do, but this year I went in seeded first, so you have everyone else looking at you – while you wanna get this time – so that they can beat you. It was different because you have that pressure and you have that pressure of, ‘Wow, I wanna try to get the title again,’ so it was incredible to get the title again and get the 100 as well.”

Funkhouser paired her individual gold medals with all-state efforts in Central’s 200 free and 400 free relay teams, each of which placed fifth on Wednesday. All-state recognition

Much like her experience last year, Funkhouser said a busy Wednesday morning filled with preliminary races left her in need of a rejuvenation before the finals later that day.

“In the morning I was hurting. I don’t know why,” she said. “I was not feeling good whatsoever, so during the six-hour break I went and took a nap and then I came back and I was feeling really good. I got in the water and was ready for warm-up, had a good warm-up and was able to swim my best times in both.”

Funkhouser opened the finals with a victory in the 50 free, which she won with a personal best time of 24.65 seconds to reset for the second time in as many weeks the school record she’s owned since last season.

She followed shortly after with her victory in the 100 free, during which she beat Clarke County’s Maeve Lyman (55.78), the runner-up, by 1.5 seconds and breaking the previous state meet record of 55.03 seconds set in 2014.

“I just remember during my 50 I was just hurting but I just knew I had to keep going if I wanted to get a good time,” Funkhouser said. “If I wanted to do well I had to keep going. And my 100, my last lap my arms would not come out of the water they were hurting so bad. But I just knew if I wanted to get first and if I wanted to get that record there was no way I could slow down.”

Funkhouser capped her strong tournament run by swimming the anchor leg of the Falcons’ 200 free relay – alongside teammates Carly Boyce, Sydney Crosser and Winter Ruhling – that placed fifth with a time of 1:53.33, then rejoined Boyce, Ruhling and Anna Jeffrey for a fifth-place finish (4:12.67) in the 400 free.

Central’s 200 medley relay, comprised of Jeffrey, Audrey Johnston, Crosser and Ruhling, also placed fifth (2:08.55), while Jeffrey earned an individual all-state finish by placing sixth in the 100 backstroke (1:07.99).

For Central’s boys, Dean Woodwell earned two individual all-state spots with a fourth-place finish in the 200 free (1:54.80) and a seventh-place effort in the 100 fly (57.53). Graham Wenn placed seventh in the 50 free (23.16) for the Falcons.

That duo also competed in the 200 free and 400 free relays – alongside Cliff Croom, Jonah Neri and Jeremy Racey – which placed fifth (1:38.76) and seventh (3:39.51), respectively.

Strasburg’s Nathan Hershey was the Rams’ lone all-state performer, as he placed fifth in the boys 500 free (5:32.29).

Central’s girls (146 points) finished sixth in the team standings and the boys seventh (123.5 points), while Strasburg’s girls and boys were 21st and 12th (45 points), respectively.

“Our guys were seventh last year so even though we graduated three out of our relays, to repeat as seventh, I was impressed because the guys worked that hard,” Falcons head coach Steve Shaffer said. “The girls were 10th last year, they moved up to sixth. Ashley certainly did her part. The other girls around her, it became very much a team effort.”

Central’s boys 200 medley relay team (Racey, Croom, Neri, Chase Rimel) narrowly missed state placement by finishing ninth.

Hershey also placed 10th in the boys 100 back for Strasburg and teamed up with Nathan McDonald, Logan Smalls and Daryen Stanley to finish 10th and 12th in the boys 200 medley relay and 400 free relay, respectively.

Stonewall Jackson’s boys 400 free relay (James Clark, Evan Araujo, Don Keith and Lukas Fultz) placed 10th.

Jeffrey added an 11th-place finish in the girls 100 free for Central, while Crosser was 14th in the girls 100 breast.

Strasburg’s Cassie Cooper placed 13th in the girls 100 fly, and the Rams’ girls 200 medley relay (Niki Funkhouser, Abby Davis, Cooper and Tessa Hockman) and 400 free relay (Caitlin Hart, Haleigh Mills, Davis and Hockman) placed 12th and 13th, respectively.

Racey was 13th in the boys 100 back and 15th in the 100 free for Central, Croom was 15th in the 100 breast and Rimel finished 16th in the 500 free.

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com