Wenn hoping lessons learned last season pay off in the pool for senior year with Falcons

Graham Wenn

WOODSTOCK – The 2016-17 high school swimming season, when all was said and done, ended up being a positive experience for Central High School’s Graham Wenn.

Wenn, now a senior, enjoyed success in the pool as a junior last winter. He earned all-state medals in three of the four events he competed in at the VHSL Group 2A meet last February, placing seventh in the boys 50-yard freestyle and swimming the second leg of the Falcons’ 200 and 400 freestyle relay teams that placed fifth and seventh, respectively.

But he also gained valuable knowledge outside of the pool, as well.

“I learned that I need to push myself a lot harder than what I usually do and then I need to keep on top of my schoolwork,” Wenn said on Thursday afternoon. “And I need to stay healthy and stuff by doing exercise outside of practice and eating healthier, getting lots of sleep.”

Improvement in the latter actually changed the course of Wenn’s junior swim season. Throughout the first half of last season Wenn was fighting a constant battle with sleep deprivation, to the point head coach Steve Shaffer said Wenn was visibly fatigued during and after meets.

“He was pretty worn down. He was pretty exhausted,” said Shaffer, who added that Wenn’s times would sometimes fall off dramatically through the course of a meet. “He would fall asleep on the bus.”

A trip to the doctor and visits with former Central athletic trainer Teresa Martilik – and doses of melatonin – helped remedy Wenn’s sleeping problems. In turn, his times in the pool started falling and he felt himself swimming faster.

“When I got to states it showed that I had improved a little bit,” said Wenn, who also narrowly missed all-state recognition in the 100 butterfly last season. “My times all dropped.”

Now a senior, Wenn will be asked to continue that success as the Falcons hit the pool for the first meet of the season on Saturday afternoon, a matchup with fellow Bull Run District squads Clarke County and George Mason at the Manassas Park Community Center.

Wenn’s leadership in the pool will be even more important for Central’s boys this season, at least until fellow senior Dean Woodwell – an all-state performer in four events last year – returns to action after suffering a broken ankle during football season.

So far during practice, Wenn has assumed that leadership role for the Falcons’ boys, though he said he’s pushed daily by junior Jeremy Racey. In what Shaffer refers to as the “animal lane” – the lane reserved for Central’s fastest swimmers during workouts at the Signal Knob Recreation Center in Strasburg – Wenn and senior Ashley Funkhouser, a three-time girls state champ, have been jockeying for the lead role.

“We continue to try to develop the younger kids, and (Wenn) and Dean are an integral role being the rabbits for them to chase,” Shaffer said. “There are some younger ones … (who are) working hard to keep up with those guys, which is pushing them harder.”

Wenn is hoping that competition powers him to some records this season, as he has his sights set on the school record in the 50 free (22.89 seconds) held by Trevor Wolf. Wenn’s best time in that event last season was 23.67.

The senior added that he plans to stick to the events he knows in his final high school season, as he prefers to stay with the 50 free and the 100 butterfly in addition to the freestyle relay events.

“My goal last year was to get sub-minute on the 100 fly, which I did at states. I got a 59, and I wanna continue dropping. I wanna catch up to Dean’s time eventually,” Wenn said. “And maybe the 100 free, drop my time a little bit more in that and try to get 53, 52 maybe.”

Wenn should have a full season of swimming at 100 percent to shoot for those goals this winter now that he has his health under control.

He doesn’t think fatigue will be an issue after dropping his participation with the Valley Area Swim Team (VAST) Gators in Harrisonburg, with whom he competed for the first time last year and did so during the high school season. Though the experience with the Gators helped improve his endurance and form in the pool, Wenn said making the drive to and from his home in Fort Valley to practice in Harrisonburg contributed to his sleep deprivation and negatively impacted his schoolwork.

“Even though he’s not swimming year-round this year I don’t really expect to see any difference,” Shaffer said. “In fact, my coaching will fit into (it and) all that work he put in last year is gonna pay off this year, so it will continue to build upon itself. He’s a year older, a year stronger. It’s exciting to see what his potential’s gonna be.”