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There are 80 AA-level schools in the state of Virginia.
At last weekend's State swim meet, Zach Dehli outscored 55 of them, all by his lonesome.
Dehli entered the fray as Staunton River's only qualifier for States. His loneliness was short-lived, however, as he had plenty of opportunities to make new pals on the winners' podium. Dehli stood upon it twice, as he nabbed a State championship in the 50 free and earned a third place in the 100 free.
The 36 points that Dehli earned meant that the Staunton River men's team finished ahead of the likes of E.C. Glass, Spotswood and William Byrd.
Dehli, er, Staunton River, wasn't the only team to have a splashing good time at the Christiansburg Aquatic Center. The Jefferson Forest Swimmin' Cavs made hay, as well.
The JF lads finished in sixth place (102 points), behind State champion Hidden Valley (195), Lafayette (185.5), Western Albemarle (147.5), Tabb (123.5) and Grafton (122).
The Lady Cavs wound up in eighth place (125.5), behind champion Western Albemarle (210), Cave Spring (196), Spotswood (164), Jamestown (142.5), Lafayette (139), Tabb (135) and William Byrd (127).
Until the State meet, Dehli was having a fairly insipid senior season. He'd won a single title at districts: the 100 free. Meanwhile, he'd placed second in the 50 at the Blue Ridge meet. He finished fourth in the 50 and fifth in the 100 at regionals.
He entered the 50 with a seeding time that was a full half of a second off the top mark.
In other words, Dehli had no business winning.
"God swam for me," said Dehli. "If you have faith, you can do anything."
Dehli earned a #3 seeding for the 50, which meant he could keep an eye on the higher seeded racers in lanes 4 and 5.
Still, "everything has to be perfect."
For Dehli, it was just that. At the conclusion of his race, Dehli looked at the clock. Then he looked at his parents. Then, back at the clock. "I thought, 'no way'," he recalled.
"Then someone yelled 'you're State champ'," he said.
Then everyone was hugging me.
"I can't stop smiling," said State Champ Dehli. "I've dreamed of winning States since I was a freshman–to have that ring."
Well, now he's got one.
Jeff Forest power
Cav swimmer Blake Nowakowski came close to earning a ring, as well, placing second in two individual events.
The junior captain picked up silver honors in the 200 IM and the 100 free, edging Dehli in that second race.
Nowakowski was edged by 0.17 seconds in the IM and by 0.16 seconds in the 100.
He also joined forces with Taylor Morris, Devin Creger and Francisco Gomez to finish third in the 200 free relay. That same quartet also landed in fifth place in the 400 free relay.
While Nowakowski should be pleased with his performances, he's strictly focused on the team, taking his duties as captain very significantly.
"It's more important to me to help lead the team," said Nowakowski. "I'd rather see everyone on the team try their hardest than for me to have individual success."
Gomez finished 14th in the 200 free and Devin Creger landed 12th in the 500 free to help give the Cavs some additional points.
Reeds lead Lady Cavs
Ainsley Reed capped her senior campaign in fine fashion. She picked up State medals in two events, taking fourth in the 50 free and tying for fourth in the 100 free.
Little sis Alyssa Reed had a jovial time at her first State meet, nabbing sixth in the 200 IM and seventh in the 200 butterfly. She credited her sibling for much of her success. "It's so nice to have a good role model," she said, nodding toward Ainsley. "She's taught me a lot."
Casey Wrabley kicked in big points for the team with a 12th place in the 200 free and a 13th in the 500 endurance race.
Those three swimmers teamed up with Valerie Breslow to take fourth in the 200 free relay. Then they joined with Veronica Breslow to earn a third place in the 400 free relay.
"I feel I'm leaving the program in good hands," said Ainsley Reed. "JF has much to look forward to."