Wynnewood >> For a number of swimmers on the Friends’ Central Boys and Girls’ High School swim teams, their swim journey started with a kickboard in the learning annex – a small, shallow pool adjacent to the six-lane, 25-yard competitive pool at the Friends’ Central Aquatics (FCA) Swim School more than a decade ago.
Those boys and girls are now part of Friends’ Central School teams that helped the Phoenix recently win the boys’ FSL championship for the 17th consecutive season and the girls crown for the fourth consecutive season – and their 12th in the last 15 years.
“Winning the FSL title is rewarding, very rewarding,” said Friends’ Central swim head coach Iain Anderson, who is finishing his 21st year at FCS. “Competitive swimming, in general, is considered and individual sport. However, what makes winning the FSL championships such a great event and experience for us is that it really gives the kids a chance to see and appreciate how important their team effort is. Every point – from first place through sixth – counts. Seeing or hearing your teammates cheer while you race counts. And if you work hard sometimes everything comes together in the end – poetically – and you get to celebrate as a community.”
“This year’s success definitely felt special,” said senior Anna Volpp, who finished fourth in the 100 fly, second in the 500 free and second as part of the 200 free relay. “This season especially, I felt like the swim teams were very cohesive and felt like a family which made the win very satisfying to share with each other. All of the swimmers on the team have trained really hard since the start of the season so it was nice to see our morning practices and difficult sets pay off.”
Heading into the FSL meet as the defending champions, the Phoenix girls and boys knew they had their work cut for them against the competitive George School and Westtown School squads. And the girls’ and boys’ championship meet remained tight throughout. The girls eventually gained the breathing room they needed to secure the crown following the second place finish in the 200 free relay (Elizabeth Forsythe, Anna Volpp, Sofia Moran and Maddie Anderson) with a time of 1:46.13, just under three seconds off the George School pool record set by FCS in 2017.
The boys meet came down to the final event of the day, the 400 free relay. With four underclassmen taking the reins, the Phoenix flew past Moorestown Friends to win the event by nearly five seconds to claim their 17th consecutive crown. After sophomores Spencer Thorne and Holden Kopcsik and eighth grader Finn Hilliard built the cushion, it was sophomore Ethan Cohen who completed the final laps to clinch the win.
As in previous years, providing the spark for FCS was the senior leadership and the messages conveyed to the younger simmers.
“The messages we try to convey as seniors are sportsmanship, being mindful of your health and having fun with the sport,” said Elisabeth Forsyth. “Sportsmanship by far is the most important thing an athlete can do, especially in swimming. I encourage my teammates to always shake hands in the water and to be kind and respectful.”
“Senior leadership is always important and since the guys team was so young this year, we all had to step up and assume leadership positions,” said Cohen. “Having to do this sophomore year will only serve to make us better leaders in coming years.”
The other important key to the continued success of Friends’ Central swimming was the creation and continued success of Friends Central Aquatics.
“I’d like to think that it plays a very important role,” Iain Anderson said. “A big part of swimming is practicing on a consistent basis. FCA provides a number of practice opportunities. For those that are in high school, we offer 11 practices – including four weekday a.m. practices. We hope that all these options serve the swimmer best as they learn to balance the demands of academics and other extracurricular activities while also preparing them for what lies ahead.”
FCA was created by Iain Anderson, a year after he arrived at Friends’ Central in 2001. Understanding the idea that Friends’ Central Aquatics had a lot to offer the community – helping kids learn how to swim and enjoy it as lifetime activity, providing a Masters program for adults who continue to pursue active and healthy lifestyles, a development program at Bryn Mawr geared for kids may not be ready to specialize or meet the demands of a travel team, and a year-round competitive USA Club Team – was something the school embraced and continues to support.
“I am very proud of the fact that we have helped over 40 kids swim in college like Williams, Amherst and Washington University,” said Anderson, “But I am more proud of the fact that we have a comprehensive program like FCA that enables kids to learn how to swim, pursue their goals or dreams, learn how to work hard and enjoy the journey.”
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