STEPHENS CITY — Sherando swim coach Joe Knight will have plenty of options this season when he fills out his girls lineup card.
The Warriors have 22 swimmers on the girls team, many of whom can swim in a lot of events.
“I think overall, looking at our girls in general, we probably have about the same amount of depth as we had last year,” Knight said. “It’s kind of fun to write their lineups because on any given day they can all swim just about all the events.”
Knight said it will be a tough challenge for the boys team this season, which has only 11 swimmers out this year.
The Warriors return most of their girls team from last year’s squad, which finished just outside the top 20 in the Class 4 State Championships.
They are led by sophomore Emma De Jong, who qualified for the state meet individually in the 100 freestyle and 100 breaststroke last season. She was also part of medley and 400 free relay teams, which qualified for the state meet.
Knight said De Jong has improved in the last year.
“Based on a couple times she swam in the USA (Swim) meets this year already, I see no reason why she won’t repeat in those events and possibly add one or two more along the way. She’s been working hard on improving her butterfly and she’s one of our best backstrokers as well. She’s the complete package. She’s got it all.”
Sophomore Lindley Armel returns after a solid freshman year. She was part of Sherando’s 400 free relay team last season. Knight said Armel has been working hard to improve.
“She’s already talked to me about some of her goals,” Knight said. “And she really wants to improve on her distance swimming, which we really appreciate. We kind of pride ourselves on having kids that get the job done in those events.”
Jordyn Jones, a junior, will look to improve on her solid season last year. Jones was on Sherando’s two state-qualifying relay teams and advanced to the state meet in the backstroke.
“She’s swimming extremely well and we look for her to improve off of that as well,” Knight said. “We just hope she can make it back individually in the back this year. If she does that that will really be icing on the cake for her season.”
Juniors Gracie Twigg and Kyra Schultz are also back for the Warriors this season. Schultz is Sherando’s top butterfly swimmer and Twigg is strong in the freestyle events.
Sophomores Addy Gannon and Hannah Motley and seniors Hannah Starustka and Anne Restrepo return from last year’s team and will add to the Warriors’ depth.
Knight said the team has five freshman, led by Natalee Tusing, Maggie Ubert, Stella Wallin and Anika Williams. Knight said Tusing had the fastest 50 freestyle time in Sherando’s preseason time trials.
The boys team lost several top swimmers to graduation, including state-qualifier Ayman Ibrahim.
Matthew, a senior, and Peter, a sophomore, Pham are the top returners for the Warriors this season. Neither qualified individually for the Class 4 State Championships last season, but both came real close.
“Both of them are highly motivated this year,” Knight said. “They realize if they’re going to make it back to states, especially Matthew, he’s going to have to do it on his own merits rather than with a relay team.”
Senior Michael Leckie, juniors Josh Bauer and Dylan Cadd and sophomore Trevor Cram return to Sherando’s squad this season. Knight said all of them will need to be able to swim other events besides their main events to help the team out.
Knight said the team has two talented freshmen as well this season. Ashraf Ibrahim, Ayman’s brother, and Ben Jensen will be contributors to the squad this year.
“We have our work cut out for us,” Knight said of his boys team. “I like this group of kids. They get along really well with one another. They’ve got a good work ethic. They encourage one another, and we’ll just have to see. Not having the numbers certainly hurts us a lot.”
The Warriors have their first meet on Thursday with Clarke County and then travel to Brentsville on Friday.
Knight said if things break right for the girls squad he thinks they might be able to crack the top 15 this year at the Class 4 State Championships and that would give his young team a chance to aim for the top 10 next year.
“I’ve shared that with the kids and they’re buying into it,” he said. “My catch phrase is always I’m cautiously optimistic. ...We do have a pretty young team here with a lot of talent and a lot of potential.”