Months before the best swimming season in King George High School history, Alexandra Bentz knew she had something special on her hands.
Bentz, herself a former swimmer for the Foxes, had been an assistant coach under Curt Albert for the previous three seasons. When she succeeded him as head coach, she inherited a talented and versatile group that seemed destined for big things.
“I already knew what we had and who we had, and what they were capable of,” Bentz said. “We could concentrate on coaching our non-year-round swimmers, find the right events to plug them into, and let the others be rock stars.”
Those headliners included Bentz’s younger sister, Caroline, who would go on to win the Class 4 state 100-yard backstroke title and swim on the Foxes’ state champion 200 freestyle relay team. She was joined by Jessica Miller, Tamara Wheater and Emily Sizemore to form the nucleus of The Free Lance-Star’s swimming team of the decade.
After joining the boys for a sweep of the Battlefield District team titles, King George’s girls finished a close second to Jamestown in the Region 4B championships and seemed poised to turn the tables on the Eagles in the state meet a week later.
They led the scoring for much of the meet, with Caroline Bentz capturing the backstroke title and finishing third in the 100 free to cement her status as All-Area swimmer of the year as a junior. Miller was state runner-up in the breaststroke, and Wheater placed third in the 50 free and fourth in the 100 free. Wheater, Sizemore and Emma Morrow joined Bentz on the winning relay team.
The team trophy came down to the meet’s final event, the 400 free relay. Unfortunately for the Foxes, one of their key swimmers, sophomore Jenna Kapp, was sick that day, and at less than full strength, they couldn’t overtake Jamestown. The Eagles won the meet with 226 points to King George’s 221.
“If Jenna had been able to swim, we could have won that event and the state championship,” Alexandra Bentz said.
Still, the state runner-up trophy was the best haul any area team made in the decade, and it wasn’t a fluke.
After skipping her senior season and taking a gap year to compete with her club team, Caroline Bentz is training for her freshman season at Virginia Tech and looking ahead to the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials. Miller and Sizemore signed with the University of Wyoming, although Sizemore has since transferred back home to the University of Mary Washington.
King George’s boys weren’t too shabby, either. Jacob Miller placd third in the state in the 50 free after winning the event as a junior. He signed with George Mason, although Alexandra Bentz said he has since transferred to George Washington University. Teammate Nate Wilson was third in the 100 breast and now swims for Army at West Point.
“We had an absolutely loaded team,” Alexandra Bentz said. “That was a great group of kids who had all grown up together. They worked really hard, and they deserved what they got.”
Steve DeShazo: 374-5443