By Luke Stone ’20
Woodberry’s varsity swimmers are expected to drop time at states. They are not, however, expected to perform nearly as well as they did in Christiansburg, Virginia last weekend, where they accomplished their season-long goal: be the best team on the pool deck.
The 2020 VISAA Swimming & Diving State Championship Meet marked the best performance for the Tigers since their men’s team state championship in 2012. By the end of the weekend, the Tigers had racked up five gold medals, two silvers, three new school records, a state record, Male Swimmer of the Meet, Male Coach of the Year, and their eighth consecutive Team Sportsmanship Award.
“I always hope that meets turn out like that, but I’ve been replaying that meet in my head, and there’s no way I could prepare for the feeling I had when it ended. Looking back, it was the greatest 48 hours I’ve ever been able to be a part of,” Kyle Floyd ’20 said. “It’s a testament to the hard work we’ve all put in, the great coaching from Coaches Wilson and Guldin, and just shows how much everybody bought in. I always have the goal of meets going like that, but it’s nice to turn our dreams into reality the way that we did.”
The Tigers strong Friday morning prelim session set the tone for the weekend. The 4 x 50 Medley relay team of Jack Stelter ’20, Floyd, Ben Lundy ’20, and Gavin Newcamp ’21 dropped nearly four seconds from their in-season best down to a 1:33.65, a time that put them just .2 seconds off of the state record and one second ahead of last year’s school record relay. Two events later, Stelter turned in a dominant performance in the 200 Freestyle with a prelim time of 1:39.17, nearly a second faster than Trevor Runberg’s ’94 previous school record. The swim meant that Head Coach Greg Guldin has coached every current school record holder in the 20-plus year history of Woodberry Forest Swimming.
“It was really cool to see him after my race because he was really excited for me. He showed me his crumpled up heat sheet and said, ‘You did this to me,'” Stelter said. “It was cool breaking the record because it had been there since 1994, but it was really an honor to be the person who could break the last school record for Mr. Guldin because he’s done so much for our team and for me, personally.”
In the final event of the Friday prelim session, Floyd and Lundy, the team’s only four-year varsity swimmers, tied for first place in the 100 Butterfly at 50.22 seconds.
During the first finals session, the favored Tigers won the 200 Medley Relay with a 1:33.09, a result that put them three seconds ahead of second place Collegiate, four seconds ahead of third place St. Christopher’s, .36 seconds ahead of the state record, and .12 seconds under the Automatic All-American Qualification time. Jack’s younger brother Sam Stelter ’21, along with Drew Lytle ’22, earned points in the 200 Freestyle B Final before Jack went onto win the A Final in the event by 1.5 seconds.
After their gold-gold start to the night, the Tigers won their first silver medal of the meet in the 200 IM, where Floyd went toe-to-toe with UVA commit Noah Nichols of the Steward School. In the evening’s last event, Floyd and Lundy did what they had semi-seriously joked about for four years–go 1-2 in the 100 Fly at States. While Floyd led the event wire-to-wire, second place proved considerably more elusive for Lundy. The Nassau, Bahamas-native sat in fourth place after the 50 and 75 yard marks before passing two swimmers, including the top seed coming into the meet, and claiming second place.
“At the 75 turn, I didn’t see anybody, and I was kind of surprised because Ben swam so quickly that morning. It hit me when I looked up again and saw one next to my name and two next to Ben’s name,” Floyd said. “And that’s when Ben and I made eye contact, rushed to each other, and gave each other a hug. Watching that race is crazy because he really does make a move. He really wanted that. That night we talked about it, and we’re still talking about it today. We did what we wanted to do this last season together.”
On Saturday morning, the Tigers’ top performers continued to impress, with Stelter dropping more than half a second off his seed time in the 100 Freestyle and advancing to the A Final in first place. Austin de la Torre ’20 dropped 5.55 seconds in the 100 Breaststroke and jumped twenty spots into that night’s B Final. In the day’s final prelim, the Tigers 4 x 100 Freestyle relay team of Stelter, Floyd, Newcamp, and Peter Moore ’21 dropped from a 3:17.44 seed time to a 3:11.31.
With three state meet sessions and three weeks of tapering behind them, Woodberry claimed its fourth and fifth event wins of the meet. Stelter completed his sweep with a victory in the 100 Freestyle, and the relay team dropped an additional four seconds to a school record time of 3:07.15.
All told, the weekend left the Tigers the most decorated team on the pool deck. They won three more events than the men’s team state champion, St. Christopher’s, tied for the most second-place finishes in the meet, won the Team Sportsmanship award for the eighth consecutive year and the sixteenth time overall. Individually, Coach Guldin won his fourth Men’s Swim Coach of the Year Award and Jack Stelter won the school’s first Male Swimmer of the Meet since Zach Switzer ’13, who earned the honor during his senior season.
While they were pleased with the recognition they earned in Chrisitansburg, nothing made the swimmers happier than having the undying support of each other throughout the weekend.
Lundy said, “I truly didn’t care that much about the awards. I know Guldin doesn’t care that much about getting the Coach of the Year award. I think we can all agree that we [are most proud that we] became a family at the end. We had a great states, but not because we had phenomenal swims, but because we were a family the entire time. We always kept people up. We made sure that no one slipped through the cracks. Everyone upheld the values that we have practiced the entire year or all four years, in some cases. During the awards, I looked at the entire team and thought, ‘I’m just so glad I could be with these guys and I’d rather be no other place in the world than here right now.'”