STRASBURG - Strasburg swim coach Ina Rae Crisman knew she would have a young and strong team this season, but she did not envision the type of success the Rams would end up having.
Strasburg swept the Shenandoah County swim meet and the girls team finished fourth in the Class 2 state meet, the best-ever finish for the program.
Crisman, The Northern Virginia Daily's 2018-19 Swimming Coach of the Year, said the two teams had some ups and downs, but began to peak at the right time - starting with the Shenandoah County meet.
"It was a season that was filled with, honestly, a lot of ups and downs," Crisman said. "Because there was so many different personalities, which you always have, but a lot of freshmen that came in very excited. And you kind of have to rein them in a little bit. Trying to get them all on the same page took a little while. But once they saw what could happen as a team, like I said, from the county meet on it was just so exciting."
The Rams swept the Shenandoah County meet on Jan. 23. Strasburg's boys had 169 points, while Central had 141 and Stonewall Jackson 109. Strasburg's girls team had 217 points, while Central had 206 and Stonewall Jackson 68.
"The county meet was pretty exciting for us knowing how close we were last year, because we only lost by a couple of points last year," Crisman said. "You always want to beat your county rival. And that was definitely a highlight because it involved the whole team - all 29 swimmers not just 11 or 12. It involved the whole team. Everyone played their part to help us get to that moment."
The Rams finished third the following week in the Bull Run District Swim Championships in both boys and girls.
"(After the county meet) I started looking at what we could do in (the) district (meet)," Crisman said. "And I told them guys we have an opportunity here to come out third. And I know that seems silly. You always want to say let's go win it. But I'm also a realist and I knew George Mason was a very strong team as is Clarke County, deservedly so. But I said these other teams we can go in and we can finish third and they were up for the challenge and they did that."
The girls team took third in the Region 2B Championships as well. The two teams combined to take 11 swimmers to the state meet, including five in individual events. Last year the Rams had only one swimmer advance to the state meet.
The boys team was led by freshman Sebastian Keefe, who finished 12th in the 500 free (5:39.62) and 13th in the 200 IM (2:29.35).
"Sebastian Keefe was able to swim in two individual events and I think looking at the numbers he knew he had to swim a phenomenal race to medal," Crisman said. "...He was really pleased with and I was very happy with his performance."
Strasburg's Donovan Varley finished 17th in the 100 fly (1:09.29) and Jack Burr was 21st in the 100 back (1:09.09). The Rams also finished 10th in the 200 medley relay (2:00.22).
Strasburg's girls had a huge day at the state meet individually and as a team. Freshman Abbi Kawatsky was third in the 100 fly (1:01.02) and the 500 free (5:26.88). Sophomore Abigail Davis was fifth in the 100 breast (1:14.26) and eighth in the 200 IM (2:31.50). Freshman Carson Bauserman was 11th in the 200 free (2:16.57).
Strasburg's 200 medley relay team of Abby Davis, Abigail Davis, Kawatsky and Tessa Hockman were fourth in a time of 2:03.02. The 200 free relay team was seventh (1:51.77) and the 400 free relay was 13th (4:23.60).
Crisman said that finishing fourth as a team in the girls state meet was a great feat for the program.
"That was just such an exciting day," she said. "Everyone had just so much fun and they cheered each other on. I was ecstatic. I almost cried. My daughter, Samantha, she helps me out and I looked at her and said 'this is phenomenal. No one's ever done this.' That day was special. It's hard to describe. I was just so happy for everyone and how they performed not only individually but how they supported each other."