CatFish win first state championship of 2018

On Feb. 3, the varsity swim team became the first Westminster team to win a state title in 2018.

The team was led by the senior captains Bryan Weselman and Isabella Velarde, as well as by head coach Sharon Loughran, a former Virginia Tech swimmer. They led the Cats to an extremely successful season, with a winning record and becoming state champions.

This was Coach Loughran’s first year as head coach at Westminster, but she has been involved with swimming throughout her life. Swimming from a young age, Loughran has always loved the sport and has learned much about both grit and self-discipline. Coaching allowed Loughran to give back and teach others the lessons that swimming taught her.

Loughran applied her experience with swimming and emphasized training over all else, as she believed both swimmers and divers needed to get stronger and perfect their strokes and techniques in order to succeed.

“You have to put the work in and you can’t take any shortcuts like you may be able to in other sports,” said Loughran. “Swimming is a demanding sport where you strive for quantity over quality. You really have to grind it out and the weight room really helps with that.”

Velarde emphasized the amount of effort needed from the Cats in the face of their rigorous training.

“Especially at the end of the season, training got difficult, not only physically but mentally,” said Velarde. “After a long day of school, you don’t always feel like going to a two-hour practice or competing in a meet.”

However, this training almost certainly paid off, as the Catfish not only dominated the competition throughout the season but in the state meet as well. The Catfish came in first with 543 points, obliterating both the second and third place teams, who only scored 269 points and 263 points respectively.

“State was awesome. I do not think it could have gone any better,” said Loughran. “The kids kept their composure not only at the meet but in the last few weeks leading up too. The last haul is long and tiring, but they went through all of the steps and they got the reward they deserved.”

At the state meet, every single swimmer and diver on the team pushed themselves to do the best that they possibly could, shattering all expectations.

“Most of the team and coaches expected strong performances out of seniors Santiago Morales and Charlie Greene, who came second and third, but no one could have guessed that junior Grady Thomas and sophomore Max Graves would do as well as they did,” said Loughran. “They both dove out of their minds and scored valuable points for us.”

All of the Cats contributed to the win, but some of the swimmers won their individual events getting the most points possible for that heat.

“Eliza Normark and Jack Stone won individual events not only for 1A through AAA, but 1A through AAAAA, so they were really some of the best swimmers in that state for those events,” said assistant coach Jan Allen. “Everyone did their part and it paid off.”

“We were there to compete, and we did just that,” said Loughran. “Once we were officially announced as champions, I was proud of the team and the coaching staff too. The team had worked so hard throughout the season, they never really got a break. It was a surreal feeling.”

The team waited until the scene started to close down and the other teams left to start their celebration. Everyone jumped in the pool with their state championship hats for one last time in the pool together, even taking a picture to capture the moment. The team then held a team celebration at school.

The Catfish hope to bring another title home next season, despite the fact that many talented seniors are graduating. The team hopes it can develop the young talent it possesses. However, if nothing else, the team got the reward they deserved this season for all of the relentless training and effort they put in.