Boys Swimming Coach of the Year: Knight leads Warriors to success with small team
STEPHENS CITY — Sherando boys swimming coach Joe Knight wasn’t sure what to expect of his squad before the season started, but he certainly liked how things turned out.
The Warriors only had 13 swimmers on the team to start the season but proved that quality was more important than quantity.
“Honestly, I would have never ever envisioned the type of season that we had at the beginning of the year,” Knight said. “Our returning numbers were low after the last two, three years where we have just graduated so many of our swimmers out of the building, so many of our good swimmers.”
Knight, The Northern Virginia Daily’s 2018 Boys Swimming Coach of the Year, said due to the low numbers he told his swimmers that they would have to swim multiple events for the team and they handled the challenge well.
In the very first meet of the season, Knight was surprised at how well his swimmers did. They lost in a close dual with Brentsville, which went on to finish third in the Class 3 state meet.
“I thought holy cow,” Knight said. “Even though we’re down in numbers we’ve got some talent on this team. And so as the season progressed they just seemed to get better and better.”
The Warriors hit a speed bump over the Christmas break when senior Heston Phillips broke his arm snowboarding and was out for the season.
With only 12 swimmers, the team continued to make strides. Knight said he was proud of the relay teams. Sherando qualified for the state meet in both the 200 free relay and the 200 individual medley relay.
Sherando’s Ayman Ibrahim, Matthew Pham, Peter Pham and Angelo Gannon were on the relay teams. The 200 medley relay finished 14th and the 200 free relay placed 15th in the state meet.
Knight said he was very proud of Gannon’s performance this season.
“Angelo Gannon had never really swam competitively before,” Knight said. “And every week he just got better and better and better.”
Ibrahim finished sixth in the 50 free and seventh in the 100 free. Knight said it was great seeing his success at the state level and seeing him standing on the podium representing Sherando.
“It was just one of those thrills of a lifetime that coaches look forward to,” Knight said.
The boys team finished 22-3 in the regular season. They placed second in the Northwestern District meet, and sixth in the Region 3C meet. They placed 22nd in the Class 4 state meet.
Two of Sherando’s three losses came to two teams that finished in the top three in their respective state meets.
“For our boys, with only 13 boys on the team, to lose to two top three schools in the state and not lose to them by very much, we had a heck of a season — we really did,” Knight said.
Knight also coached the girls team to a successful season. The girls team went 24-1 in the regular season. They also finished second in the Northwestern District, and sixth in the Region 4C meet. They finished 21st in the Class 4 state meet.
The girls had a young team, and Knight said the future is very promising for them.
The boys team had four seniors, and Knight said it will be difficult to keep the program going strong the next few years.
“With the boys team were just going to have to take it one year at a time and develop these younger swimmers,” Knight said. “They made a lot of improvement this year. But we need to find a few more of them to kind of fill our roster.”