Battle to the end: Albemarle boys edge Western in Ben Hair’s swim portion

Photo by Bart Isley

Albemarle’s Caleb Smith is a state record holder, a Division I signee at Seton Hall and one of the area’s top swimmers. So the Patriots know what they’re going to get from Smith. What it’s about for the Patriots’ boys though is what they get from the team’s other swimmers and on Tuesday night they got quite a bit.


“A lot of our younger kids stepped up and had some great swims, Walker Davis was great, Charlie Cross had a great meet,” Smith said. “The entire team, everybody stepped up.”


They’ll have to wait for the dive portion to be completed after it was postponed from Monday to Thursday, but through the swim portion of the Ben Hair Memorial Swim and Dive Meet, Albemarle’s boys team led the field. Albemarle won the final event, the 400 free relay, to edge out the Warriors, who took third in the relay 415-411.


“I thought we did a great job of being a team tonight, cheering for each other and people stepping up and swimming fast,” said Albemarle coach J.J. Bean.


The Patriots’ boys lead Western by just four points headed to the dive, and Western is likely to surpass Albemarle there, but the two area powers went essentially swim-for-swim Tuesday. The Warriors countered Smith’s dominance in the 200 and 500 freestyle (he won the 200 by almost four full seconds and the 500 by more than six) with a heavy dose of August Lamb and Noah Hargrove, who each doubled up with Hargrove winning the 200 IM and the 100 butterfly while Lamb won the 100 free and 100 breaststroke.


In the relays, Albemarle won the 200 medley and the 400 free while Western snagged a win in the 200 free relay by edging out the second place Patriots. As Smith pointed out, swimmers like Davis and Cross helped Albemarle hold off Western. Davis, just a freshman, won the 100 backstroke and placed fourth in the 200 IM while swimming legs on the two relay wins in an impressive Ben Hair debut. Cross finished seventh in the 100 free for some critical points and another young swimmer, Victor Valovalo took fourth for the Patriots in the 100 breast. Older swimmers like Nick Ashby also performed well as he snagged third in the 200 IM and second in the 100 breaststroke while Alex Tan took fourth in the 500 free and seventh in the 200 IM. Thomas Leckrone was the runner-up in the 100 fly and took fourth in the 50 free.


Part of the challenge the Ben Hair presents each year is that most of the area’s year round swimmers are coming out of winter training, which means many swimmers are tired and have to find ways to swim fast when they’re fatigued.


“Everyone is pretty much in training right now so they’re not expected to swim fast but they did swim fast,” Bean said.


Western’s top swimmers also stepped up to meet that challenge.


“I thought Noah Hargrove and August Lamb stepped up and did what they’re supposed to do, showing people how to swim fast while tired,” Bledsoe said.


Woodberry Forest finished third as a team while St. Anne’s-Belfield took fourth and Fork Union finished fifth. Fluvanna County finished sixth and Monticello took seventh.


The other individual champion in the meet was Covenant’s Noah Holstege winning the 50 freestyle and he also grabbed a runner-up finish in the 100 backstroke. Fork Union’s Anthony Gemma finished as the runner-up in the 50 free and 100 free. Monticello’s Bracken Eddy was a runner-up in the 200 IM and in the 500 free. STAB’s Parker DeVillier took third in the 50 free and fifth in the 100 breaststroke while teammate Vijay Chhabra was fifth in the 200 IM and third in the 100 breast. Woodberry’s Charlie Moore took third in the 100 back and fourth in the 200 free while teammate Kyle Floyd was the runner-up in the 200 free and third in the 100 fly.