In just its second season as a varsity team, Carroll County will send five swimmers to the State Tournament on Feb. 17 in Richmond.
Carroll’s Kaleb Payne, Brett Bowman, Jackson Nester, Forest Webb and Ellie Webb will represent the Cavaliers in the State Tournament at SwimRVA at the Collegiate School Aquatics Center in Richmond. Payne, Bowman, Nester and Webb all qualified as a group by placing fourth in the Boys 200 Medley Relay at the Region 4D Swim Championships on Feb. 6 in Christiansburg. The Carroll group finished fourth in the event with a time of 1:47.97.
Additionally, Nester and the Webb siblings all qualified as individuals for the state tournament. Nester qualified for the 200 individual medley by placing fourth in Christiansburg with a time of 2:06.36. Nester will also represent Carroll County in the 500 freestyle, an event he qualified for earlier in the year.
Individuals may qualify for as many state events as they wish, but may only actually compete in two events. Therefore, Ellie Webb will have her choice of competing in the 200 freestyle, 100 freestyle or 100 butterfly events in the state tournament. She had already qualified for the 200 freestyle and 100 butterfly events before adding 100 freestyle to the list by placing fifth in Christiansburg with a time of 57.48 seconds.
Her brother, Forest Webb, will have his choice of four events to compete in at the state meet. Webb won the 100 backstroke event at regionals with a time of 52.78 seconds. He had already qualified for state in the 200 freestyle, the 200 individual medley and the 50 freestyle.
Sending five to the state tournament is another highlight in an outstanding season for Carroll’s swim program. Last year, the Cavaliers did not send anyone past regionals. This season, 22 of Carroll’s 30 swimmers advanced to regional tournament action.
“I am so excited to being go on to the next level. It’s huge,” Carroll County swim coach Joi Ogle said. “Our numbers have grown since last year. We had 17 last year and this year we had 30. And the growth of kids that started last year to where they are now, we have seen a lot of progress. We have seen lots of personal bests on their times. And even being able to swim some of the more difficult events, some of the girls would not have thought about doing 500 freestyle last have done very well in that event this year.”
Ogle said coaches of other sports are seeing the benefits of having their athletes compete on the swim team. In particular, she said Carroll County’s baseball team has several new swimmers this year.
“Kevin DeHaven, the baseball coach, encouraged his baseball players to swim to get in better condition for baseball. I think four of his baseball boys swam this year and they have done phenomenal,” Ogle said. “They started off the season with the 50 free at about 34 seconds. Lance Rotenzier and Nick Bell were about to drop it to 26 or 27 seconds, so to not have swim before, not understanding the breathing patterns and the techniques, we had to start at the beginning with those boys because they had no idea.”
And while several relatively newcomers have flourished in Carroll’s second season, so have some of the Cavaliers’ most talented swimmers. In particular, Forest Webb, Ellie Webb and Jackson Nester have continued to upgrade their already impressive skills.
“Those other three are incredibly talented. They swim with the H2Okies and travel to Christiansburg daily. It is a club swim program,” Ogle said.
Forest Webb went toe-to-toe against one of the top high school swimmers in the county at regionals, finishing just half of a second behind William Byrd’s Khalil Fonder in the 100 freestyle (Fonder finished in 47 seconds flat compared to Webb’s 47.5 seconds). Fonder has committed to Arizona State University, where he will be coached in part by legendary swimmer Michael Phelps.
“Whenever we do go to state, Khalil will be there and it will be interesting to see if Forest swims against him. His best two events are butterfly and backstroke,” Ogle said. “I have a feeling Forest will do backstroke and 200 free, but that would be a great race if he goes up against him again.”
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN