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Swimming: New faces keep a longtime meet fresh

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FOR 35 YEARS, THE RSL FINALS

HAS PRODUCED GREAT EXCITEMENT,

AND SATURDAY WAS NO DIFFERENT

BY KURT NICOLL

Results: See team results

Michael Kulstad of Stafford County wasn’t sure when he would see his friend and high school swimming teammate Ted Born again.

They graduated from a small high school in Minnesota in 1992 and had not seen or heard from each other since then.

That changed last year when Born moved to Aquia Harbour and signed up six of his seven children for the Rappahannock Swim League.

“I looked into his eyes and said, ‘That’s Ted.’ And then he put his Vikings cap on,” Kulstad recalled.

Both were on hand for Saturday’s Battlefield Division finals at Curtis Park. Both were interested in their children’s progress (Kulstad had three participating) and Kulstad also served as a starter and head referee.

Of particular interest was the seventh and final heat of the boys 6-and-under 25 free, where Woodlands’ Jack Kulstad and Aquia Harbour’s Joseph Born swam in adjacent lanes and Born came out on top.

“It’s a mixed bag for us. Holly, my wife, and I are probably more competitive than the kids,” the elder Born said. “But the emphasis is to have fun and exercise, but there’s the underlying [reason]: Let’s get to the end before everyone else.

“We enjoy it. The camaraderie; the kids are making lots of friends; it’s a good atmosphere; all of the coaches from all of the teams are wonderful. It’s really a great opportunity.”

The RSL must be doing something right. Now celebrating its 35th anniversary, the league consists of 24 teams divided into four division. Both the year-round swimmer and those swimming just for the summer seem to be enjoying themselves.

Although new to the scene, Woodlands head coach James Landis likes what he has seen so far and hopes to return next summer. He came aboard when he accepted the position of interim head coach of the Sharks year-round swim team four months ago.

“The younger kids I try to get more into the technique of it, a lot of drill work, try-ing to perfect the strokes,” the Indiana native said. “As they get older, if they’re not doing the strokes right, they’re not going to get any faster.”

Although he has only one assistant coach, Landis benefits from having five swimmers who serve as helpers. “They’ve stepped up to the plate and have done a lot of good work for us,” he said.

Although not serving as a helper, 13-year-old Camryn Curry has the makings of being one in the future. A year-round swimmer for the Stafford Aquatic Team (STAT), she was only 3 seconds off the Junior Olympics qualifying standard in the 100 back.

“I try to have fun here and work for STAT,” said the versatile athlete, who competes in field hockey, track and soccer while attending Rodney Thompson Middle School. “I normally go to STAT practice, but I go to every single meet and try to help these guys. They try their hardest, that’s pretty much all they can do.”

Stacey Heaney has been hooked on swimming for about as long as she can remember. She swam for Woodlands in the 1980s, served as a coach for the team several years and now has two sons competing for the Massad YMCA. She also serves as the team volunteer coordinator.

“When you grow up in Stafford County, swim team is huge,” she said. “If you can get involved, it’s a great asset for your kids and your family.”

Heaney also buys into the Marlins’ commitment to total participation.

“The Marlins team has a very solid vision: We want all of our kids to swim at finals, not only our very best. No one misses the finals unless it is their choice,” she concluded.

Kurt Nicoll: 540/374-5440

knicoll@freelancestar.com

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