Saturday, July 23, 2011
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City-County swim meet is all in the family

Swimmers from all types of backgrounds come together when it's time to hit the pool for the Roanoke Valley Aquatic Association championship.

Kyle Green | The Roanoke Times

"We have won eight championships in a row, and I couldn't let the team down this season," said James Madison pitcher Luke Munson, who swims for the Hunting Hills team and will compete in four individual events.

Kyle Green | The Roanoke Times

"I see more and more adults swimming and out there having fun, and with the increase of ex-athletes trying triathlons, I can see where a lot of these guys are swimming," said former Hampden-Sydney football standout Stephen Waskey (above).

Former Cave Spring pitcher Luke Munson is playing baseball this summer in the Rockingham County Baseball League for the Broadway Bruins to fine-tune his skills for his sophomore season with James Madison University.

The league has scheduled off days on Mondays, so Munson takes to the road from Harrisonburg to Roanoke to pursue another passion -- swimming.

Munson made the Monday trips to qualify for this weekend's Roanoke Valley Aquatic Association City-County meet at the Salem Family YMCA.

It's a trip that the left-handed pitcher says is well worth it.

"We have won eight championships in a row, and I couldn't let the team down this season," said Munson, who swims for the Hunting Hills team and will compete in four individual events. "I help coach some and it would have felt weird if I wasn't swimming."

That feeling comes from the sense of family that each swim community in the RVAA develops with its team, and it's one of the biggest reasons that Munson returned back after establishing himself at JMU.

"It's fun seeing the kids on the team grow up; it's a unique experience," said Munson, who pitched in the NCAA tournament for JMU. "I'll probably be swimming till the day I die."

Munson isn't the only athlete that's got a college pedigree in another sport at the meet. Joining Munson is Liz Brailsford, a former Patrick Henry volleyball standout and an incoming freshman at Dartmouth. She says the experience of the summer swim season is not only something she enjoys but something she sees herself doing in the future.

"The atmosphere is great when you get on the blocks and you see all the younger kids cheering you on," said Brailsford, who is swimming four events for the Roanoke Country Club team. "I hope to continue this when I come home for the summer because it is such a family atmosphere and it is fun to see the kids."

Two former football players have found their way to the pool as well.

Former University of Virginia linebacker Curtis Hicks picked up the sport of swimming when his kids got involved with the Stonegate team.

"We really enjoy the family aspect and the ability to build a sense of community," said Hicks, whose entire family is swimming this weekend. "But more than anything it makes you healthy."

Former Hampden-Sydney football player Stephen Waskey agreed with Hicks' assessment.

"No question, the RVAA is family-oriented and great to do with the family," said Waskey, who swims for Roanoke Country Club. "I see more and more adults swimming and out there having fun, and with the increase of ex-athletes trying triathlons, I can see where a lot of these guys are swimming."

Also taking to the pool is Jourdan McDaniel, who's the captain of the Radford University women's soccer team. She swims for Hunting Hills and coaches the team's 6-and-under swimmers.

Both Munson and Brailsford said that swimming is part of the training with their college programs and both were looking forward to outracing their teammates.

"There is a lot of pounding when hitting the volleyball, and swimming is a good way to make your shoulder stronger and, of course, help your cardio," Brailsford said.

"Hopefully," she continued, "I will be one up on them when the team swims and can beat them, but we'll see."

Munson saw another benefit.

"I can strengthen my rotator cuff, which pitchers need, without throwing 200 pitches," he said. "It just makes you a better athlete, and it was nice as a freshman to be picked first for something during our swimming competitions."

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