CHRISTIANSBURG — Freshman Remedy Rule captured individual state titles in the 200- and 100-yard freestyle and Western Albemarle defended its Group AA girls swimming championship in impressive — if not quite as dramatic — fashion, Saturday at the Christiansburg Aquatic Center.
“Last year, it came down to this [400 free] relay and we won it to win the title,” Western Albemarle co-coach Diana Bowen said prior to the start of the meet-ending event. “This year, we’ve already wrapped it up, so it’s a great feeling.”
The Warriors were edged by William Byrd, 3 minutes, 31.80 seconds to 3:32.08, in the final relay, but still beat the runner-up Terriers by 60 points (262 to 202) in the final team standings. Last year, they edged two-time defending state champion Hidden Valley by a 217-211 count after winning the last race.
This time, Western Albemarle placed second in two relays — the 200 medley and 400 free — and third in the 200 free to rack up the bonus points it needed to win decisively.
“It was a total team effort,” Warriors co-coach Dan Bledsoe said, noting they got a big boost from Katherine Sheppard’s second-place diving performance. “Diving put us up by 42 points [on Byrd]. That put us at ease that we could go for it.”
Senior Natalie Cronk won the 100 butterfly in 56.99 and finished third in the 200 IM in 2:05.15, behind Byrd’s 1-2 finish by sophomores Kali Edsall in 2:04.45 and Annie Lane in 2:04.47.
“That was the first time I’ve gotten under 57 seconds,” Cronk said. “That was exciting. I was behind after the first 50 and I had to catch up. A lot of those girls are great underwater swimmers. I really wanted it and my team was there to motivate me. It was so much fun.”
Rule, who anchored both the runner-up relays, won the 200 free by exactly 5.5 seconds in 1:49.16 and the 100 free in 51:18.
“In the 100 free, that was my best time,” she said. “I wanted to win it for my team. The 200 free was my best high school time by four or five seconds. It was nice to have a cushion.”
Rule, whose mom is from the Philippines and whose family moved from Waynesboro four years ago, will be joined by her eighth-grade sister Brazil next year.
“It’s really exciting,” she said. “It’s really fun being with the high school team, especially on the one that won the state last year.”
Western Albemarle’s boys team placed 11th overall with 76 points, fueled by Alex Rayle, who finished third in the 200 IM in 1:57.42 and fifth in the 100 breast in 1:00.90 before anchoring the 10th-place 400 free relay team that also featured Danny O’Dea, Max Tempkin and Shiamano Wang.
That team touched the wall in 3:33.71, ahead of 11th-place Monticello (3:25.76), which ranked 16th in the team standings with 52 points.
“Alex had a huge day,” Bledsoe said. “He’s the heart of not only the boys team, but the girls team as well. He’s an incredible cheerleader for us and on top of that, he’s our best swimmer.”
Tabb, paced by a 1-2-3 finish in the 100 breast, won the boys team crown by a 223-220 count over Hidden Valley.
The Warriors’ girls may have a hard time going for a three-peat, but Bledsoe believes it’s possible.
“We’re graduating an incredible group of five seniors — three swimmers and two divers,” he said. “Their spirit, it’s going to be hard to replace that, but they laid the foundation for what’s going to be expected from future swimmers.”
Allen is a staff writer for The News & Advance in Lynchburg.