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The Fork Union Military Academy swim team and coaches presented the admiral with the plaque they received for winning the 2013 VISAA State Championship Meet. Photo by 
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 </script>“Together We Rise,” was the theme Fork Union Military Academy Swim Coach Chris VanSlooten named for the 2013 swim and dive season. Together is exactly how they rose straight to the top by winning the 2013 VISAA State Championship meet in Richmond, snatching two state records and qualifying four of their swimmers as All-American (top 100 in the nation) on their way up.
Twenty-seven preparatory schools in Virginia competed Friday (Feb. 15) and Saturday (Feb. 16) for the chance to hold this year’s title of state champions. After Friday’s preliminary round, Coach VanSlooten did not expect his then seeded 6th place team to take the title on the next day’s point-scoring final round. After giving up points and placing lower than their original standings on that first day, he instructed his team to “focus on the little things” and reminded them, “Saturday is a new day.”
The Fork Union Team is based around principles of focusing on goals, encouraging each other and being humble in its success; it doesn’t matter who gets the praise or credit. Each member had his own individual goals and the team’s goals in mind when they entered the meet and they were determined to strive for their best swimming and sportsmanship. Little did they know, Saturday really was a “new day” and many of their ambitions would soon be recognized.
“Rising up, straight to the top,” lyrics from Survivor’s, Eye of the Tiger, were being played as FUMA Junior, Ali Khalafalla walked into the pool for the Men’s 100 yard Freestyle. As if the broadcasted reiteration of his coach’s words spoke directly to him, Ali decided that the record was his in this event and in just over 45, mind-blowingly fast seconds later, it was. As his family watched online from Egypt in the early hours of their morning, Khalafalla’s record-breaking swim named him as one of the fastest in the United States with an All-American time. His remarkable win can be seen at: http://tv.swimmingworldmagazine.com/events/2013-virginia-independent-high-school-state-championships/races/ 19657. Khalafalla also placed 4th in the 100 yard Backstroke.
As if a first place finish in the 100 Freestyle wasn’t enough for the Fork Union swimmers, Senior Michael Guerci scored even more points in the event by placing second right behind Khalafalla in just over 47 seconds, dropping a remarkable 2 seconds off his previous best time.
Ali Khalafalla and Michael Guerci joined forces with junior Karim Elsayed and senior Mohamed Saleh for yet another record breaking performance by FUMA swimmers, driving the team even closer to the state title. The four men were named All-American after winning both the 4 x 100 yard freestyle relay and the 4 x 50 yard freestyle relay, clinching the record in the 400. “Fork Union could finish first, second or third,” were the words spoken by the commentator at the beginning of the 400 relay final, after Khalafalla immediately took the lead in the first leg of the race. Then, during Guerci’s second leg, the commentator changed her conservative prediction to, “Fork Union is taking over the pool!” and they are swimming with “incredible tempo.” That “incredible tempo” did, in fact, lead them to “take over the pool,” by winning the event by an amazing, near 3 second gap ahead of the second place finishers. This victory can be seen at: http://tv.swimmingworldmagazine.com/events/2013-virginia-independent-high-school-state-championships/races/19677.
According to relay anchor, Mohamed Saleh, the team intentionally used “slow exchanges” during the finals after being accused of false (early) starts during previous meets. The men wanted to be sure if they won there would be no questions about the legality of their swim. Despite their self-described “slow exchanges,” the four cadets raced their way to yet another state record and 40 points closer to meet victory with an incredible time of 3:08.61.
In addition to these new records and top finishes, Fork Union collected points in many other events, ultimately piloting them to the state title. Freestyle relay members Mohamed Saleh and Michael Guerci tied for fifth place in the 50 yard freestyle and Karim Elsayed placed 3rd in the 100 yard breaststroke and 4th in the 100 yard butterfly. Saleh also placed 7th in the 100 yard backstroke. Junior Ian Milburn, senior Max Anderson, junior Spencer Cavotti and junior Zachary Romeo took 8th place in the 200 yard medley relay. Milburn went on to score points with a 9th place finish in the 100 yard backstroke and 12th in the 200 individual medley. Even more points were scored with Cavotti’s 13th place finish in the 50 yard freestyle, Anderson’s 8th place in the 100 yard breaststroke and by sophomore Tre Taylor, finishing 7th in the 100 yard breaststroke. Divers, Geddy Fuller (senior) and Leonard Bernard (senior) also contributed to the team’s success by placing 11th and 14th in the Men’s 1 meter diving.
After being very concerned about their giving up points and dropping their standing down to 6th place in the preliminary round on Friday, Fork Union Military Academy Men’s Swim Team “took ownership of their mistakes and vowed to correct their problems,” noted Coach VanSlooten. They approached Saturday with their toughest ambitions in their minds and robust determination in their hearts. They left the meet on Saturday as the new state champions with a total point count of 275, holding two new state records and with four swimmers named as the best in the nation. These swimmers worked hard, stayed focused and accomplished extraordinary goals this 2013 swimming and diving season and in the words of All-American swimmer, Ali Khalafalla, “This is just the beginning.”