Cavs dive in to first swim season

Published 11:07 pm Friday, December 16, 2011

Lakeland's Greg Epps won the 100-meter butterfly in 1:32.37 during Thursday evening's district swim meet against Indian River at the Great Bridge Swim and Racket Club. Lakeland is in its first season with a swim team.

CHESAPEAKE — There’s nothing easy about starting a new high school swimming team from scratch.

Lakeland’s inaugural squad, under head coach Heather Gastrell, has its practice pool at the Franklin YMCA, meaning bus trips to Franklin after school three days a week.

The Cavaliers don’t have enough swimmers yet to realistically take on most of their Southeastern District opponents.

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The Cavs are working hard and competing, though, which made the conclusion of Thursday evening’s district meet against Indian River even sweeter.

Indian River had both team totals easily in hand when the Lady Cavalier 400-meter freestyle relay team, Megan Cox, Kasey Askew, Alexis Wingate and Wendy Zolinski, won the last event of the night.

It was the first win in a relay event in program history — four meets into Lakeland’s swimming history — and it was celebrated with hugs and high-fives all around.

“Tonight was the first meet where we were really competitive against our opponent,” Gastrell said.

The Cavaliers have 22 swimmers. Practice started up in early November, just a couple weeks after Gastrell was brought in as coach.

Unlike most Chesapeake schools, and a number of other Eastern Region and private school swim programs in Hampton Roads, Lakeland has no year-around swimmers and less than a handful of kids who’ve been on a competitive swim team before diving into varsity meets.

“All the kids have been super excited. They’re all giving it 130 percent every day. With it being Lakeland’s first year, they’re all excited to make history,” Gastrell said.

The Cavaliers go to the Franklin YMCA three days a week.

“Yeah, as crazy as that is, we go over there Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays for one hour in the pool,” Gastrell.

Once in the midst of the season, most Thursdays and Saturdays are meet days. On Wednesdays, the Cavaliers have a “dry practice” for 2-3 hours at the school.

“It’s a lot of calisthenics, weights, cardio, a lot of running,” Gastrell said.

Lakeland earned a victory on the boys side as well. Gregory Epps and Philip Rankin gave the Cavs and 1-2 finish in the 100-meter butterly. Epps won in 1:32.37, edging Rankin by less than two-tenths of a second.

Epps finished second in the 100 breaststroke in 1:31.48. Colby Bennett took second in the 100 backstroke in 1:41.13 and Timothy Quinata was runner-up in the 50 freestyle in 33.55.

Zolinski was second in the 200 free, coming in at 3:24.68, less than two seconds behind Indian River’s Sarah Locke.

The Cavalier and Brave swimmers exchanged congrats after the final race. Indian River won the boys meet 93-46 and the girls meet 111-47.

Some Hickory and Oscar Smith swimmers, as the Hawks and Tigers contested a district meet alongside the Braves and Cavaliers at the Great Bridge Swim and Racket Club, visited Lakeland’s portion of the bleachers following the meet to give the Cavs respect and good wishes for the rest of their rookie season.

The Cavaliers have to rest up in a hurry to get ready for a meet against city rival King’s Fork Saturday at noon at the Great Bridge Swim and Racket Club.