Swim and Dive Balances Huge Team with Focus on Getting Results

Coach Ryan Burnsky makes adjustments while watching the team compete at their meet against Magruder.

by Hannah Mushahwar ‘24

Sherwood Swim and Dive witnessed incredible wins in the previous 2022-23 season, placing 9th at states and with a number of swimmers breaking personal records. Coming off of last season’s progress, the 2023-24 team has significantly larger numbers of swimmers, growing from 68 to a striking 93 members. Coach Ryan Burnsky’s decision to keep such a large team has certainly caused a change in the dynamic of the team, but nevertheless, he does not see the need to be exclusive in a sport that already requires a large team.

“If an athlete is willing to meet all the team requirements and work hard, then they can be part of the magic too,” said Burnsky. “Having a big and diverse team creates more support for one another and at the very least a louder cheering section at meets.” There is no doubt that the team has been incredibly high-spirited and determined, and that is thanks to the many captains working together in order to create a sense of connection among such a large team. “There is an extremely positive environment on our team. There is so much cheering and support when athletes are swimming and diving,” said senior captain Adrianna Caponiti. “We have pasta parties every week to keep the team closely connected!”

Despite the growing liveliness of the team, there have been notable changes to the dynamic of both practices and meets. With lanes now containing 8-10 people, swimming more than 100 yards and optimizing practice sessions has become a challenge. “We have done a couple different strategies like splitting the lane to groups or heats with one group in and one group out,” Burnsky remarked. Whether or not swimmers are lacking opportunities to improve their long distance skills, Burnsky has incorporated different tactics in order to maintain the stamina and techniques of each swimmer. “We most recently did partner swims while specifically working on flip turns and breakouts,” he explained.

As for meets, unfortunately with a team so large, not all swimmers are able to participate. Top swimmers are entered into multiple individual events while Burnsky attempts to incorporate each swimmer into at least one event per meet. But, substitutions can be made on the fly, so all swimmers are expected to be ready at any moment, whether on the original lineup or not.

Despite the energetic practices, the conclusion of the season ushers in a shift towards individual accolades. After Divisionals, the team narrows down as only qualified swimmers proceed to Metros, Regionals, and States. This will most importantly allow Burnsky to direct his attention to individual focus. Seniors Brian Wilbur and Caponiti, recognized by the Washington Post’s All Met Honorable Mention for their stellar 2023 seasons, are gearing up for Metros. Wilbur’s record-breaking performance and Caponiti’s impressive finishes foreshadow the team’s potential success. Wilbur broke the school’s 23-year-old 200 IM record with a 1:54.02 at last year’s Metros. Wilbur’s record-breaking performance was enough to earn him 6th overall in an event with over 80 swimmers. Caponiti finished 9th in 500 Free, and 16th in 200 Free at Metros as well.

As the team has been working incredibly hard, they are anticipating some top finishers at the upcoming competitions. “We have the best boys and girls team we have had here in my 5 years of coaching,” said Burnsky. “Boys have a real shot to win the Division and the Region. Girls can make a good run at Regionals too, but both boys and girls have to get over the hump and beat Blair!”