Islanders stand out at regionals for Wahoo Swim Team
At the recent Newport County YMCA Wahoo Swim Team banquet, Jamestowners Noah Simmons and Sam Avayzian-Hancock were named Co-Swimmers of the Year. The two — who both participate in the 11-12 age group — are just a couple of the islanders who stand out for the Wahoos: Out of nearly 100 swimmers on the team, this year 25 of them were invited to participate at the YMCA New England Championships. Of those 25 swimmers, 14 were Jamestowners.
“They are a nice strong core group,” coach Heather Markham said. “And they’re young so we can move forward with them.”
Led by the talented group of Jamestowners, the Wahoos posted another strong finish at the regional championships held at Harvard University in March. The Wahoos were one of more than 80 teams that competed. They placed 56th overall: The girls finished 41st and the boys finished 65th.
Along with Avayzian-Hancock and Simmons, the 12 other islanders who participated in the regional championships — they either had to qualify or be chosen for a relay team — included Andrew Bauer, Emily Kallfelz, Theo Simmons, Katie Brayman, Lexi Brayman, Marc Deveaux, Eliza Kallfelz, Libby LaMantia, Charlie Simmons, Caleb Wagner, Gavin Wagner and Casey Westall.
Six of the Jamestown racers achieved personal records at the meet.
For the girls, Avayzian-Hancock broke her previous record in both the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle, while Eliza Kallfelz bested her previous top time in the 50-yard freestyle. On the boys’ side, personal bests were set by Bauer in the 50-yard backstroke, Theo Simmons in the 50- yard freestyle and Wagner in the 50-yard backstroke.
Noah Simmons had one of the most impressive days: He broke his personal record in the 100- yard breaststroke, the 200-yard individual medley, the 50-yard breaststroke and the 50-yard freestyle.
Avayzian-Hancock had the two best finishes for Newport County swimmers during the meet: She finished sixth in the girls’ 100-yard freestyle and seventh in the 50-yard freestyle. Also with impressive finishes were Bauer (18th out of 57 in the 50-yard breaststroke), Theo Simmons (22nd out of 62 in the 50-yard freestyle) and Noah Simmons, who finished 13th out of 36 in the 200-yard individual medley and 19th out of 51 in the 50-yard breaststroke.
Markham is an alumna of the team and has been the Wahoo’s coach for the past three years. She swam for the Wahoos for 10 years and after college coached her alma mater’s swim team at Middletown High School. She said that she has been employed by Newport County YMCA for 15 years, beginning at age 15 as a swim instructor. Markham mentioned that the Jamestown kids often step up as leaders in spite of their younger ages. Wahoo swimmers come primarily from Aquidneck and Conanicut Islands.
For individuals to make the New England Championships, a swimmer needs to achieve a preset qualifying time during any of the sanctioned races. Once one swimmer qualifies in their age group, gender and event, the team is allowed to bring a relay team.
“So one swimmer allows for three more to attend,” Markham said.
“We have swimmers from ages 5 to 18 at all levels from novice to elite,” Markham added.
For competitions, she said that the team is broken down into age groups and gender.
Dual meets take place during the regular season, which runs from October to February, between the 13 teams in the Southeastern New England Cluster of YMCAs (SENECY). The league is divided into an A and B division. Markham said that there are seven teams in the A Division and six in B Division.
Competitors include swimmers from Cranston, Smithfield and Westerly YMCAs.
The regular season is followed by the SENECY threeday competition to determine winners for each age group and the overall team winner for the league. To maintain the team’s Division-A placement, it must finish ranked in the top seven — for the Wahoos, it was mission accomplished.
In preparation for the New England meet, which followed the SENECY meet by three weeks, Markham said that swimmers had enough time to increase yardage again before tapering in the last week and a half, working on techniques for their particular stroke and for starts and turns.
Another alumnus of the program joined the coach for a week to work on starts and turns for the 9-, 10-, 11- and 12-year-olds.
According to Markham, “racing and race-pace work” dominated practice time. She said that the kicking was the extent of aerobic work in the final week, helping to prevent the competitors from becoming too tired.
During the regular season, Markham described a practice regime that included six days a week in afternoon and evening practices that last about two hours a day. High schoolers can also avail themselves of a 5:30 a.m. practice time.
“[It was a] pretty good season,” Markham said about the regular season. “We placed exactly where we needed to at SCENCY and we beat two teams that topped us last year in our league.”
“We had a young team,” she added. “The majority of our team is 12 and under and a lot of those [include the group from Jamestown] that is staying with us.”
Jamestowners who set Wahoo team records this season; age group in parenthesis
Andrew Bauer: 100-yard breaststroke, 1:31.87 (9-10 boys)
Noah Simmons: 400-yard individual medley, 5:38.29 (11-12 boys)
Simmons: 500-yard freestyle, 6:30.61 (11-12 boys)
Simmons: 100-yard backstroke, 1:14 (11-12 boys)
Simmons: 100-yard breaststroke, 1:19.58 (11-12 boys)
Emily Kallfelz: 1650-yard freestyle, 22:06.87 (13-14 girls)