Nansemond-Suffolk junior Taylor Berard is very strong in the backstroke and helped power the girls’ 200- and 400-yard freestyle relay teams to state qualifying times in NSA’s most recent meet on Dec. 14.

NSA swimmers branch out for the team

Published 9:58pm Thursday, December 27, 2012

The themes this season for the Nansemond-Suffolk Academy swim team have been a new beginning with a new coach and a departure from the comfort zone.

Karen Norman hands the head coaching reins over to Meredith Young, who has relished the challenge of coaching a group of swimmers that lost a lot of experience from last year’s squad.

“We lost nine seniors last year that have really carried this team for the past four years,” Young said.

That meant Young was left with only about three or four all-around swimmers that can be plugged into any event to help fill spots and earn points for the team. However, given that swimming is also an individual event, most swimmers are focused on trying to meet a state qualifying time in a certain event.

“I pretty much have enough people to swim each event, it’s just the people that are the all-around (swimmers) are getting spread thin, so they’re not being able to focus on what their individual event is,” Young said. “They’re having to just kind of take care of the team.”

So that the few all-around swimmers on the team are not over-burdened and are not denied a shot at qualifying in their favorite events like everyone else, Young convened a meeting in early December.

In this meeting she explained that she would need each swimmer on the team to move out of his or her comfort zone and swim in four events. She would place them in events potentially less familiar to them so that the team could get points from their performance, but then she would also let them swim in their favorite event too.

“If I can place them in those events, and then ask them to give me a little bit, something for the team, I think that’s a nice 50-50, and I think eventually we’ll all come around,” she said.

After the meeting, some swimmers came to her and expressed their willingness to help the team by branching out.

“They’re really good kids,” Young said. “They have a lot of heart, which is a big deal in swimming, because if you don’t have heart, then you’re just not going to do your personal best.”

In terms of standouts for this year, Young singled out junior Ben Wilson, in particular.

“He’s my top, best all-around because he’s a hard worker and he’s a good swimmer and he cares,” she said.

“He is just all-around everything from being that all-around swimmer to actually being that all-around teammate,” she said. “Like when we do relays kind of for fun, when we have time, he’s my anchor and he knows he’s going to blow that other anchor out of the water, and he’ll actually slow down so they hit the wall at the same time.”

Young uses Wilson, a year-around swimmer, almost anywhere, and he beat the state qualifying time for the 200-yard individual medley by nine seconds in the most recent meet on Dec. 14. In the same meet, he also helped the 200-yard medley relay and the 200-yard freestyle relay teams record times under the state qualifying standard.

Freshman David Forman, who was on those same relay teams, is used to doing the backstroke, but Young has been putting him in the 100-yard butterfly out of necessity, and he has done well there.

Sophomore Matt Ruland loves doing the 500-yard freestyle, which Young has allowed him to keep, but she has also introduced him to the 200-yard individual medley, where he has shown real growth, crushing previous times in successive meets.

On the girls’ side, Young is excited about junior Taylor Berard.

“She is amazing in backstroke, really has her focus on the 100 (yard) freestyle,” Young said.

Young sees real promise for her in the 50-yard freestyle and in the Dec. 14 meet, Berard helped the 200- and 400-yard freestyle relay teams beat the state qualifying times.

Senior Katelyn McCracken is a leader for the girls’ team and has the all-around qualities comparable to Wilson on the boys’ side.

Young hopes to see 80 percent of the team qualify for states.

“I think 80 percent is a realistic number,” she said.

NSA will next enter the pool on Friday, Jan. 11, when it hosts Greenbrier Christian, Norfolk Collegiate and Norfolk Christian at the Suffolk YMCA Camp Arrowhead facility on Kenyon Road.


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