New faces strengthen team

Featured Image: Assistant Coach Cassondre Wilburn and junior captain Sarah Verbeck converse at the wall during practice. Nora Bahns | Courtesy

The Virginia Wesleyan Men’s and Women’s Swim teams have their eyes set on a successful season after winning two meets last weekend against Randolph College and Saint Mary’s College. The success has not come overnight, as the additions of many key freshmen and the recently hired Assistant Director of Men’s and Women’s Swimming Cassondre Wilburn have really boosted the team.

“Many of us are already achieving personal bests and it is so early in the season,” first-year Declan Keener said. 

When asked about his goals for the rest of the season, Keener said, “Hopefully our relay teams break a few records, and, personally, I hope to break the 100 and 200 Freestyle records.” 

Having first-years with dedicated mindsets has a direct correlation to the leadership from the coaching staff and the captains.

“There are always challenges when being a captain, especially with having 25-plus swimmers seeing each other every day,” junior captain Sarah Verbeck said. 

Director of Men’s and Women’s Swimming Kristian Ramkvist stressed that his door is always open, but it is also important to have other people on the team to talk with. “There are many times when it is good that you can just go to your captain. It is important that the team, especially the younger swimmers, feel comfortable speaking with their captains,” Ramkvist said.

Another key part of the team’s success so far has been the addition of Assistant Director Casssondre Wilburn. 

“She is absolutely amazing. Cassondre has really helped motivate the team and is very encouraging as well,” Verbeck said.

Keener shares similar opinions on the matter of Coach Wilburn. “Overall, she has been great. It has been very helpful to have her in the weight room with us, guiding our lifting,” Keener said.

It is not the first time that Ramkvist and Wilburn have coached together, but it has been a few years. Wilburn was recently coaching both club and high school swimmers, but always felt that she worked better with older swimmers. When Ramkvist made the call, Wilburn knew that it would be a perfect opportunity for her to excel in the sport.

“I was very adamant about who I wanted to bring onto the team to help coach. She knows how to talk with people and deal with them, especially with a background of spending two decades in the police force,” Ramkvist said.

When asked about the adjustment to coaching the swim team, Wilburn said, “The team has been great accepting me to the family, and they have realized that I do know the sport and understand how to condition in the weight room.”

Wilburn stated that the dedication of the team has stood out, especially as a new coach. “They do it for the love of the sport. There are not any scholarships awarded at the D3 level, so they are truly a part of this team as a family,” Wilburn said.

The dedication and care for the team is stimulated by Ramkvist’s work. “It helps to have Kristian create new goals for every practice and an effective seasonal plan,” Wilburn said.

Ramkvist is in his second year as director of Men’s and Women’s Swimming and has many achievable goals for the team on the rise, including personal ones for each swimmer. “Looking at the improvement from before my first year to where we are now has been incredible, and it is going to continue trending up,” Ramkvist said.

The team’s goals are centered on personal work and effort at meets. “We look to keep moving up in the conference and I had a goal that all of our records would be broken after my first two years here,” Ramkvist said. “It looks like that is something that will happen, and we will continue to improve.”

“The support so far has been amazing. We have a team that is moving up in the ranks and getting better every day, so we would love to continue having people showing out to support us,” Ramkvist said.

The Men’s and Women’s Swim teams will return for a home tri-meet on Friday, Nov. 3, against Sweet Briar College and Hampden-Sydney College at the Batten pool.


By: Coy Camiscioli