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Kettle Run hopes to improve on record-setting swim season from last winter

Wednesday, Dec. 11 | By Jeff Malmgren
Camilla Brizzi returns after leading the Kettle Run girls with a four top-16 finishes at state last season. --Photo by Joey LoMonaco
The recent reclassification of the Virginia High School League has made it easier for teams in most sports to advance to their state championship events.

Not so for swim teams like the Kettle Run Cougars.

The state time standards this season for the new Class 3A are a little harder to meet than the standards last season in the old Class AA/A.

Luckily for Kettle Run coach Angie Smith, the Cougars are easily equipped to swim faster. With 20 seniors, Kettle Run should again send a horde to the state meet this season after earning a program-record 16 state entries in 2012-13.

“Last year we got the state cuts with room to spare, so even with the little more difficult cuts this year I think [we] will be OK,” she said. “The kids are getting better [every year]. It’s crazy. It amazes me how kids are stepping up – ‘It’s faster, so what can I do to improve myself to get to that [state] goal.’”

The Cougars, however, have the more immediate goal of winning their third consecutive Evergreen District championship. They’ll have to do it in different fashion this season, though.

There will be no district championship meet this postseason, a competition the Kettle Run boys and girls won in both 2012-13 and 2011-12. Instead, after the reclassification, an Evergreen regular season champion will be crowned this season based the results of each team’s five district dual meets.

“It’s so different,” Smith said. “It does make it a little harder for our kids.”

Kettle Run’s Conference 27 will not hold a championship meet, either, unlike many other sports, Smith said. Without a district or conference meet, swimmers will have fewer opportunities to qualify for state.

So the 3A East Region championship meet will be the first level of the postseason for Kettle Run. The Cougars should contend for the title.

“I certainly hope so. It would be fantastic,” Smith said. “I think we’re going to do well at regionals. How well, I don’t know. … My seniors are pretty strong, but I don’t know how we’ll stack up.”

Last season, the Kettle Run boys set a program record by placing third at the AA Region II meet, while the Kettle Run girls finished eighth. Since then, the Cougars lost only two boys and two girls to graduation.

“I’m actually looking forward to what the boys are capable of, and the girls,” Smith said. “I feel like we’re strong.... We look good. Practice is going really well. They’re working really hard.”

Among Kettle Run’s returning swimmers are 12 state qualifiers: senior Zach Webb, junior Henry Patrick, junior Connor Webb, senior Scott Heckathorn, senior Ryan Kelly, junior Connor Keating, sophomore Peyton Helou, sophomore Julia Roda, senior Camilla Brizzi, sophomore Katie Heenan, senior Amber Smith and senior Hannah Pezza.

Last season, Patrick, Heckathorn and Zach Webb combined for six top-12 finishes at state.

“They’ve come back stronger,” Smith said. “Their stroke is more mature. … I see improvement in them just from looking at times, but you can visually see it as well."

Brizzi led the Kettle Run girls with a four top-16 finishes at state last season.

"I’m excited to see what she can do this year," Smith said. "Her stroke looks really great."

"But some of [the girls] are injured, so it’s going to be a little work to get them back in shape," Smith said. "By midseason, they should have their A game."

Julia Roda, for example, just returned to swimming a few weeks ago after recovering from injury. Last season, she swam in three state events.

Most of the Cougars’ relay teams (six state qualifiers) also remain intact from 2012-13.

"There may be some change-up just a little bit, Smith said. "The relays are based on the top [individual] swimmers."

Kettle Run did lose an underclassman state qualifier in Kelsey Cook, as well her sister Rachel Cook, but it still has a larger roster than last season with 58 swimmers compared to 49. Plus, 17 of the Cougars' 20 seniors swam for Kettle Run last season.

"And the [Cook sisters] would have been seniors, too," Smith said. "That would have been 22."

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