Bishop in the swim of things at Tech

Published 1:04 pm Monday, December 24, 2012

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy grad Gabrielle Bishop is already making an impact with the Virginia Tech swim team as a freshman. She is expected to compete in the 200 yard freestyle event at the ACC championships and perhaps other events as well. She even shows potential to qualify for the NCAA championships this year.

Virginia Tech freshman Gabrielle Bishop made waves as a stellar swimmer at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy and the Old Dominion Aquatic Club, and now that tide is carrying over into the collegiate pool.

Ned Skinner, head swimming coach of the H2Okies, has been pleased with the Suffolk native.

“I think she has come to college prepared, academically and as a swimmer,” he said. “I would certainly give credit to, of course, her parents and to Steve Bialorucki, her club coach from ODAC.”

Virginia Tech freshman Gabrielle Bishop continues to impress at the college level as she did in high school while swimming with Nansemond-Suffolk Academy and the Old Dominion Aquatic Club.

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Through strong practices and her performances in five different meets so far, Bishop has put herself in a good position to qualify for the Atlantic Coast Conference championships. Furthermore, Skinner believes she is capable of reaching the National Collegiate Athletic Association championships.

“I really am just happy that I can perform like this and see the joy in my teammates and my coach and my parents also, but also myself,” Bishop said. “I have not felt this confident or this good about my swimming in such a long time, and it’s just helped me put my mindset right back on top where I need to be going into conferences.”

She has been able to contribute to the H2Okies in several different events.

“I would say, first and foremost, the 200 (yard) freestyle is where she is always looked upon to help us,” Skinner said.

In the H2Okie Fall Invitational, Bishop’s last meet before January, she finished first in the 200 free with a time of 1:50.13.

Skinner said Bishop has also been strong in the 100-yard freestyle and in the corresponding relays for the 4×800 and 4×400 freestyle events. This has been particularly important, because relays are worth double the normal points for an event that can contribute to a team win. The team enjoyed seven dual wins this past fall.

In the H2Okie Fall Invitational, Bishop helped Virginia Tech’s 4×400 free and 4×800 free relay teams finish first. She also finished fifth in the 100 free, less than a second off the leader’s time.

Additionally, she shows potential to help the team in the 500-yard freestyle, the 100- and 200-yard butterfly and in the backstroke races.

Making all this success possible has been Bishop’s ability to adjust to the unexpected. She knew she would have to work hard, but she still expected to have a bit more free time, since, for example, living on campus cuts down on commute time that she always had back home.

“I’m actually working 24/7 throughout the entire day,” she said. “I wake up, go to practice, come back, I have to do homework, go to class, then go to practice again, and then when I get back, I still have more homework.”

Her coach said her ability to handle the hectic schedule is the reason Bishop is already one of his standouts.

“She just never seemed like she got totally overwhelmed with the workload, because in college swimming, it’s not even so much the training, it’s the other stuff,” Skinner said. “The weights, the dry land and then you combine that with freedom and expectations to perform, and it seems to take some kids longer to grasp it than others, and I think Gabrielle just really has met that challenge very well.”

Being successful in practice is especially important, because it determines who travels and competes with the team. Skinner said that just being on his team confirms a swimmer is pretty good. But of his 26 female swimmers, only 16 can go to the ACC championships. Bishop is already a lock to compete there in the 200 free and could race in as many as two other individual events as well as relays.

As the season progresses, if she can post a time in the top 35 of Division I swimmers nationally, Skinner said, Bishop will qualify for the NCAA championships. Bishop has her eyes on the prize.

“My number one motivation right now is definitely to place top 15 or top eight at ACCs, but most importantly to make the NCAA team,” Bishop said. “That would just — Oh, that would be amazing, but I know it’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of dedication, but that is my number one goal.”

Qualifying for the NCAAs is a big achievement, regardless of what year the swimmer is in college. Freshmen have done it before, but it does not happen frequently.

“It would be a rare accomplishment that is something that she’s capable of doing,” Skinner said.

More meets will occur in January, but the women’s ACC Championships will take place in February in Greensboro, N.C., and the NCAA championships follow the next month in Indianapolis, Ind.