Vandegrift swim team not intimidated by big stage

Two individuals and one team swim for state titles on Saturday


The biggest stage in high school swimming wasn’t too big for a young Vandegrift team. 

The Vipers saw two individuals and one team qualify for the state final at the Swimming & Diving State Meet prelims on Friday night. Kevin Hammer will race in the 50-yard freestyle and Shannon Bagnal will compete in the girls’ 100-yard backstroke. 

The team of Andrew Pickard, Jared McArthur, Daniel Sarman and Hammer will race in the boys’ 200-yard freestyle relay. 

“Every time I get up behind the block, it’s kind of like being in awe because I can see so many people,” Vandegrift junior Kevin Hammer said. “Then sometimes in the middle of a race I’ll take a breath and I can hear the sound of everybody here. It’s incredible.”

Of the 13 Vandegrift swimmers at the state meet, just two of them are seniors. 

Bagnal, a freshman, bettered her qualifying time in the 100-yard backstroke by more than. 60 seconds. She finished seventh place and will be in the only freshman in the eight-person race on Saturday. 

“My goal even before I went to districts or regionals was to make it to the (championship) final at state,” Bagnal said. “I did that, so I’m just really happy. My goal tomorrow is to break the school record and have fun.”

The build-up to the 50-freestyle sprint is just as intense as the race itself. Hammar said he starts with some longer warmup before sprinting countless times. He swam the race in 20.90 and finished in sixth place. 

“It’s about getting up there and being in the mood to race about five minutes beforehand,” Hammer said. “For my individual race, I’m hoping to maybe podium and be up there. (Having teammates here) keeps me relaxed and loose and having more fun than stressing about what’s going on here.”

In the first event of the evening, the Vandegrift girls’ 200-yard medley relay of Bagnal, Julia York, Julia Roberto and Mia Thompson finished in 14th place with a time of 1:48.87 to earn a spot in the consolation final. 

While Hammer competes in the state final of the 50-yard freestyle, senior Andrew Pickard will be in the consolation final after finishing ten spots behind his teammate. 

Sophomore Tailyn Schaufelberger finished the girls’ 200-yard IM in 2:10.30, missing the consolation final by just over two seconds. However, she did reach the consolation final with a 15th place finish (1:07.05) in the girls’ 100-yard breaststroke. York finished 19th (1:07.68).

Junior Julianna Birlin sealed a place in the consolation finals of the girls’ 100-yard freestyle with a 15th place (52.29) finish before helping her relay team with Jasmine Bui, Sydney Srncik and Mia Thompson finish 11th and qualify for the consolation finals in the 200-yard freestyle relay.

Looking to qualify two teams in the state final, the Vandegrift boys’ 400-yard freestyle relay team of Sarman, Mason Wong, McArthur and Hammer was disqualified after a swimmer left the mark too early. Their time of 3:11.30 would’ve been good for 13th place a spot in the consolation final. 

The Class 6A finals begin at 3:30 p.m.

“I was going the dive at warmup and I saw all the people and it was so energetic,” Bagnal said. “I love all my teammates and they’re always there to support me and it’s just so much fun."