Boys' Swimming Coach of the Year: James Wood's Jessica Barr

coachswimJames Wood’s Jessica Barr is The Winchester Star Boys’ Swimming Coach of the Year for the second time in three seasons. The Colonels lost six key swimmers from last year’s team and had only nine swimmers on this year’s team, but James Wood was third in Region 4D after taking second in Region 4C last year, and tied for eighth in Class 4 after taking seventh last year. The Colonels also won the 10-school Holiday Hundreds Invitational, which consists entirely of Northwestern District schools.

The Colonels had the area’s only All-State boys’ performances in Class 4. Junior Joe Warnagiris captured the 200 individual medley and the 100 breaststroke for the first two state titles in Frederick County history. The 200 medley relay team of Warnagiris, junior Alex Hua, freshman Eddie Grimes and senior Ethan Britton placed fifth and Grimes took seventh in the 100 backstroke.

Q. How did this season go based on your preseason expectations?

Barr: I definitely had high expectations, but with the new region, I knew we were going to have some pretty stiff competition in Blacksburg and Jefferson Forest. To come in with such a small team and score as many points as [we] did, really in all of our meets, not just the regional meet, that probably surpassed my expectations. Just looking at their times and how they compared to last season’s times, especially in the relays, our boys’ 200 free relay was only [0.6 tenths of a second] away from breaking the school record that was set last year. Not only did Joe step up, Eddie did as well, so did Alex and Ethan. It was really helpful to have Eddie step into the role he did, having so many seniors that left.

Q. What qualities stood out about your team this season?

Barr: I think they were a very tight-knit group. A lot of them have known each other for years. Josh Harty and Zach Harrington were underclassmen who were willing to just step into their roles and do whatever events we needed them to do. Josh Harty put in a lot of work this year to get more in shape and to build some strength and some speed, especially in his butterfly, and even in his distance freestyle events.

Q. Was there any meet that was significantly important in the team’s development before the postseason?

Barr: At a meet at Colgan [High School on Jan. 12], we were only competing against Brentsville, but we were also swimming against [Class 6 schools] Battlefield High School and Gainesville High School. I kind of told the team, ‘Just see what you can do against these bigger teams.’ We were able to see how we matched up against them in some of our events, some of our boys’ relays. I think we realized we do have a strong team even though it’s a small team. To have a chance to swim in a really fast pool and get some really good times, I think that kind of set the tone for the rest of our season. Whatever events our swimmers were in, they were ready to do their best.

Q. What were the most memorable moments?

Barr: Leading off states with the top-eight finish [of the 200 medley relay] was definitely something I wasn’t really expecting. We had been changing that relay around quite a few times just to see what would be the best option, what stroke we wanted Joe to do, and then what we could fit in with the other boys. That set a tone for states. And then of course when Joe was a state champion, and the entire team was running up behind him, cheering him on and congratulating him as soon as he touched the wall, that was great.

Q. What are your expectations for next year?

Barr: They want to build on the success they had this year for next year. Ethan is our only boy graduating from our state participants and was on the state relays. We’ll be looking for someone to fill his shoes, but our underclassmen see that as being a potential spot for them.

— Compiled by Robert Niedzwiecki


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