NRHS swimming eyes higher peaks

Published 10:05 pm Friday, January 3, 2014

Sophomore Tayler Pearl leads a young Nansemond River High School girls’ swim team this year.

Sophomore Tayler Pearl leads a young Nansemond River High School girls’ swim team this year.

The Nansemond River High School swimming program entered this year with confidence after its best finish ever last season. There are multiple reasons expectations are even higher this year.

One reason corresponds to the Virgina High School League’s realignment, which ensures Nansemond River will only have to face schools of similar size in competition for conference, regional and state championships.

Warriors head coach Shamus Riley said, “I’m pretty excited about the realignment” because it actually gives Nansemond River more of an opportunity to win.

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Last year, the boys’ team did well for itself in the Southeastern District, which is formed mostly of schools larger than those in Suffolk. The team went 4-4.

Though Nansemond River is now part of the six-school Ironclad Conference 18, the district opponents remain on the schedule this year and Riley looks for the boys to finish at or above .500.

The conference is a different matter.

“I’m pretty positive they should win the conference championship,” he said.

Another reason for high expectations is the return of some outstanding swimmers, led by sophomore Logan Eubanks.

From a meet this season, “Logan Eubanks is actually already qualified for the state championships in the 400 freestyle,” Riley said.

The coach also expects Eubanks to qualify for states in the 200 freestyle and the 100 backstroke.

Eubanks made a habit last season of breaking the school record in multiple events. At regionals, he contributed to Nansemond River getting its highest placement ever (16th out of 26 teams) and highest point total ever (31) by breaking the Warriors record in the 100-yard backstroke.

He also helped the 200-yard medley relay team break the school record. That team included Robert Boswell, a standout who has now graduated, and a returning star in junior Michael Betts.

Betts came on strong at the end of last year, qualifying for district and regional competition. It was particularly impressive as he was sidelined for all but the last couple weeks of season with a fracture in his back.

“He’s very healthy this year, and I actually predict him to win the 100 breaststroke in the conference,” Riley said.

Betts will continue to swim the 100 breaststroke and 50 freestyle, both of which he qualified for regionals last year. He will also rotate between the 200 individual medley and 100 butterfly.

Junior Cody Edwards is a talented utility swimmer for the team that can swim events that Riley does not fill in with Eubanks or Betts. His strongest events are the 200 and 400 freestyle.

Together, Eubanks, Betts and Edwards help form the relays.

Sophomore Daniel Kent is another utility swimmer and has been the top 100 freestyle swimmer this year. He also has begun elevating his profile in relay events.

Senior Jacob Hopple is one of two seniors on the 25-member boys’ team and will be featured in the 200 and 400 freestyle.

Junior Joe Pedersen is generally the fourth man in the 200 medley relay.

The girls’ team finished 2-6 last year. Riley hopes it can finish at .500 this year, but said it is going to be tough because the group, also numbering 25, is quite young, with an abundance of sophomores.

But in the conference, he said, “I honestly believe it’s going to come down between them and King’s Fork for the conference championship.”

Leading the way for Nansemond River is sophomore Tayler Pearl.

“She holds most of the top times on the team for the girls for this year’s team, but her strongest individual events are the 200 IM and the 100 breast,” Riley said.

Sophomore Kaitlyn Higgins is coming off knee surgery after tearing her anterior cruciate ligament before the season began. She has already shown a lot of progress and has been dropping time in every meet.

“She’ll be one of my top 50 and 100 freestyle swimmers,” Riley said.

Cali Valdivieso is one of several versatile sophomore swimmers on the team that can do whatever Riley needs her to, but her primary events are the 100 fly, the 200 IM and the 100 back.

Sophomore Claire Janek is a first-year swimmer whose competes in the 50 and 100 freestyle.

Freshman Zoa Dalton contributes in the 50 and 100 freestyle, as well as the 100 back.

Other girls that help form the relay teams include sophomore Kendell Webster and senior Dawn Wright.

Both the boys’ and girls’ teams are 2-1 entering today’s meet against King’s Fork High School at the Great Bridge Swim and Racquet Club.