Last VSL meet is bittersweet for swimmers

Saturday was for last hurrahs and initial introductions at Savage Natatorium inside James Madison University's Godwin Hall.

The Valley Swim League Championships featured 62 events with participants ranging from ages 6 to 18 years old.

Hannah Daniel of the Westover Waves represented the elder statesman, a veteran. Daniel, a recent graduate of Harrisonburg High School, who also swam for the Blue Streaks, competed in backstroke, butterfly and freestyle races.

"Being back here for the last time, it's bittersweet," Daniel said. "Everyone is a little younger than me, and I think I've done my time here, so I have to move on.

"But I always really liked these meets because of the camaraderie that happens. Everyone is nervous and just wants to swim their best, so you have a lot of helpful and happy people. It means a lot."

Between the separate sessions — younger swimmers raced in the morning and the older ones competed in the afternoon — Daniel was honored by the Valley Swim League as one of two recipients of the Sherry Burcham Anderson Scholarship.

The organization awards two of its swimmers $500 each for their contributions to the sport.

Daniel said she leaves Harrisonburg in a few weeks to begin her first semester at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

"I was very surprised. I didn't expect it," Daniel, who plans to major in biology, said of receiving the scholarship. "It makes me feel appreciated, and it's not that everything I've done with swimming has cultivated with this, but it does feel like it was a recognition of the hard work I've put in."

Rachel Moore of the Ashby Anacondas was also awarded a scholarship.

Daniel, while reflecting on her time with the Waves, said she could remember the first summer she spent with the team.

"That would've been the summer of sixth grade," she said. "My mom gave me a choice of joining the swim team or doing swim lessons, and I was too old and too prideful for swim lessons, so I decided to join the swim team.

Valley Swim League Championships

"I can say I have never looked back since."

Moore was the same way according to VSL board president Vicky Sullivan, who also is the director for Ashby. Sullivan said Moore is finishing her 11th season with the Anacondas.

"We have a lot of kids that do swim in high school and that have been swimming for a long time," Sullivan said. "And then we also have kids that it's their first time swimming, so we have a good mix.

"The championship meet is for everybody. Everyone that participates in the Valley Swim League has a chance to participate in this meet and that makes it a lot of fun."

On the opposite end of the spectrum from Daniel and Moore, is the Spotswood Dolphins' 8-year-old speedster Colin Regan.

Regan set a meet record for the 8-and-under 25-yard butterfly, clocking in at 17.66 seconds.

While still dripping and shivering after hopping out of the pool, Regan said he thought he had a chance to do well at the meet.

"Kind of," he said with proud parents Eric and Tina standing nearby. "Because I beat [the state record] when I was doing my mock meet."

Tina Regan said Colin's first time in a pool came when he was 2 months old and that he joined the junior Dolphins when he was 3 years old.

"I'm happy, very happy." Colin Regan said. "I got a ribbon."

Regan also won the 8-and-under backstroke event.

"This is just a good way to get all the kids together with all the teams because we only do dual meets throughout the summer," Sullivan said. "This is a way to celebrate swimming and end their summer season."

Spotswood captured the Valley Swim League championship title with a team score of 563. Westover (535.5) and Ashby (461.5) placed second and third, respectively while East Rockingham, Broadway and Massanutten finished fourth through sixth.

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