JRHS Swim Team Starts New Tradition: Swim an Hour for Charity

By Ian DeHaven and Adaline Bisese

Swimmers capping up and strapping on goggles for the swim. Photo by Adaline Bisese.

Swimmers capping up and strapping on goggles for the swim. Photo by Adaline Bisese.

The James River Swim Team recently got together at Hollins University on January 22nd to raise money to be donated to a to-be-decided breast cancer research foundation.

This was not a typical fundraiser though. Instead of selling things, knocking on doors, or even the usual fundraiser of a chicken barbecue, the entire James River Swim Team did laps for an hour straight in a “marathon swim,” raising money from donors for each lap completed, 10% of which will go on to be the team’s donation to a breast cancer research foundation.

The marathon swim began with a motivational talk from Head Coach Kevin Franceschini, or “Coach Fran” as team members have dubbed him. To get the swimmers ready to push themselves for the team’s charitable goal, he invited everyone to imagine that they were stranded in the ocean, two miles from the nearest beach. With only a whistle blow later, the swimmers were off.

Swimmers hearing some final thoughts from the coaches before beginning the hour-long swim. Photo by Adaline Bisese

Swimmers hearing some final thoughts from the coaches before beginning the hour-long swim. Photo by Adaline Bisese

Some swimmers did freestyle stroke until they could go no longer and had to switch strokes. Others swapped equipment such as flippers or kickboards into their routine to keep the hour from being too repetitive. Every swimmer in the pool had their own style for completing this challenging new tradition.

When asked why he substituted this for the barbecue, Coach Fran said this about the swim:  “Bring cancer awareness, fundraiser for cancer awareness to go towards a cancer foundation. Plus, students should be doing projects in highschool -- colleges look for that on applications. If you’re going to apply to college, a lot of times, colleges want to know other things you have done, other works.”

Assistant Coach Diane Nguyen echoed a similar sentiment about the purpose of the swim, and was touched  “seeing all of the swimmers united and doing something that benefits something so powerful to [her] and many members of the team; all with smiles on their faces.”

Veteran and rookie swimmers alike also weighed in positively on the decision to change up the yearly routine and do a marathon swim. Katie Keith, 12, was more than eager to raise money to fight cancer following her father’s recent successful battle versus the disease. She also felt like it was closer to what the team does in competition than selling barbecue.

Landyn White, 12, said: “It may not be as special to me as others, but this marathon swim was a great opportunity to raise money for a good cause while challenging ourselves and having fun as a team.” Summer Williamson, 11, agreed by saying, “The marathon swim was fun. I found it really enjoyable because there was no pressure to swim fast, so I just powered through the hour.” These two alone would go on to swim 5350 yards, or 107 laps -- earning money towards cancer research with every stroke in the pool. And that’s just two swimmers out of sixteen!

This marathon swim also comes in the wake of the team’s inaugural meet at the Botetourt YMCA. After seven years of swimming at Hollins, it looks like the swim team is ready to move on into the outstanding new YMCA facility located in Daleville. To “break it in,” James River swimmers participated in the first meet ever held at that location.

On moving to the YMCA, Coach Fran said, “Who wouldn’t be excited? The brand new facility with all new touchpads, all new electronics. It should be our training pool next year for LB and us.” Katie Keith was similarly excited about this new opportunity for the James River Swim Team, even though she is graduating. What with the more-centralized location of the Daleville YMCA, transportation for not only veteran swimmers but also possible newcomers will be much more convenient, allowing the swim team to grow in the years to come.

The swim team will move forward with the funds raised from this marathon swim and the excitement of their recent meet at the YMCA to their “Swim for the Cure” meet on January 25th, where they will be wearing coordinated neon pink caps. Following that, the team goes to the Regional Championship in early February, and States on February 14th.

Though the season may seem close to wrapping up, the James River Swim Team isn’t losing any momentum whatsoever with all of its recent advancements and exciting news. With the way things have gone for the team this year, the JR Knightly News predicts this certainly is not the last we will hear about them before the season reaches its end, and for good reason.