For nearly three decades, Fairview Swim Club has been the measuring stick by which all other Jefferson Swim League teams are judged.
Since 1990, the Seahorses have claimed an eye-popping 27 JSL championships, including the past five in a row. The Crozet Gators won the title in 2013 to interrupt the nearly three decades of dominance.
“I think that the JSL provides a service to the community in that it teaches thousands of people to swim each year,” Fairview coach J.J. Bean said. “It teaches goal-setting and other values to young children that they don’t necessarily learn elsewhere.”
Bean speaks from experience.
After graduating from the University of Virginia in 1978, he stayed in Charlottesville and was asked to coach the Four Seasons swim team (now Atlantic Coast Athletic Club) when it opened that year.
From there, he started coaching Charlottesville High School’s swim team and spent the next two summers in charge of the Greene Hills Gators. In 1981, he was named the coach at Fairview and has been there ever since.
“At Fairview, I have been lucky enough to be a part of many people’s lives and given the opportunity to watch children grow up to become positive role models and influential people in this community and beyond,” he said.
During his nearly 40 years with the Seahorses, he’s had the opportunity to coach thousands of young swimmers of all levels. During Bean’s tenure, Fairview’s team has ranged from 150 to 300 swimmers each summer, all with varying skill levels.
“The size of the team has varied from year to year, but the principles have remained the same,” he said. “The coaches care enough to work hard at teaching and meeting the swimmer’s physical, mental and emotional needs. The parents support the coaches and the mission of the team, and without the swimmer’s drive, passing and hard work, the success of the team wouldn’t be possible. The coaches and the parents set the swimmers up for success by understanding development and making the process fun.”
As with any championship team, Bean has been blessed to coach elite swimmers. That list includes swimmers such as Holly Harper (Virginia Tech), Wendy Hipskind (Kentucky), Valerie Oswald (Texas) and Matt Lockman (UVa), who all qualified and competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials. Several others went on to be college standouts and captains.
“I know that Fairview has been lucky enough to have good swimmers, coaches and support over the years, which has allowed the team to be successful,” Bean said. “The coaches truly care about the swimmers and want them to learn the process of excellence.”
The success speaks for itself, but Bean is quick to point out that it’s never easy.
“To be honest, I know we have won a lot of championship titles, but I’m not sure about the numbers,” Bean said. “Every year is different and brings with it its own challenges, successes and failures.”
Bean said that the fun part about summer swimming is the fact that there are 12 different age groups and all are equally important to the team’s success. That means that a 7- or 8-year-old’s performance is just as important as the 15-18-year-olds.
The Seahorses looked primed for another title run this season with depth throughout all of the different age groups.
In the 8U division, Bean is pleased with the improvement of Jackson Hall, Yusuf Ismailov, Evie Wayner and Madeline Lewis and believes their ability could serve as a measuring stick of the team’s success.
Alex Elhart, Jack Suggs DeSorbo, Lilly Dofflemeyer and Fiona Henry continue to improve in the boys and girls 9-10 division and are on their way to very successful seasons.
In the boys and girls 11-12 division, Asa Moody, Andrew Killian, Amelia Lynch and Lauren Britt have blossomed into team leaders in the age group. Sawyer Strickler, Carter Wesson, Cameron Smith and Melissa Almis continue to make strikes in the boys and girls 13-14 division.
Noah Hochrien, Elisabeth Bendall, Eve Umberger and Lindsay Morton anchor an experienced group of returnees that have embraced the role of team leaders and role models to the younger swimmers.
“There are many other swimmers who will play an important role in our success this year, whether that be in the point scoring, leading their lane or team spirit,” Bean said.
That spirit and camaraderie, Bean said, is another reason for his team’s success.
“At Fairview, we have families from all over the Charlottesville area and they come back year to year because of the friendly and positive environment,” Bean said. “The club, its coaches, staff swimmers and parents all care about each other and want to help each other be successful in life. The lessons we learn on a daily basis during the summer here can all be translated into real life.”
Bean knows that winning another JSL title won’t be easy. Teams such as Forest Lakes, Fry’s Spring Beach Club, ACAC, Boar’s Head and Crozet feature excellent swimmers and coaches.
“They always provide a tremendous challenge for us,” he said. “Each of those teams have many standouts and help keep us motivated to try our best.”
Last summer, Fairview scored 2,340.5 points to win its fifth straight JSL crown.
It was anything but easy.
Less than 200 points separated the Seahorses from Crozet (2,191.5), Boar’s Head (2,160.75) and ACAC (2,146.5) for the team title.
“The swimmers and coaches at Fairview realize that we don’t have any control over how other teams will perform on any given day,” Bean said. “Our goal is to improve from beginning to end of the season in technique, speed, attitude and confidence. Every year, our goal is to control what we can control and we are always very oriented towards what each of us can do to improve.”
The JSL already is in full swing and all of the swimmers are gearing up for the championship meet, which will be held July 26-27 at the University of Virginia Aquatic and Fitness Center.
Fairview is excited about the opportunity to defend its title again.
“Our team goal would be 100 percent improvements in time, good sportsmanship always and maintaining a positive and supportive attitude,” Bean said.