July 24, 2023

Last night, as I traveled home from the State meet from E-town, I felt quite blessed to be making that trip with a nice smile on my face.  The old, familiar feeling of sitting in air conditioning again after being baked in the hot summer sun, traveling home on the rarely-crowded Bluegrass Parkway, and being so proud of the Highbridge group is something that no one else will understand or appreciate.  I have made this same annual trip roughly 34 times now, and I appreciate them more and more each time.  Maybe we appreciate things in life more as we get older, I’m not sure, but I can at least tell you that I sure don’t take things for granted like I might have used to. When I take the time to write these post-meet newsletters, and thank all of you who participated, please know how sincere I am.  It was a wonderful weekend for Highbridge Aquatics.

From the Tuesday night Taco dinner at the Lee’s house, and from the very first swim – Brinlee Vittitow’s first Thursday morning 3-second drop in a 200 Free, to the very last swim last night – Joshua Tatro’s best time in the 400 Free, I am so thankful to all of you.  Thank you for listening to the “story” of our summer as explained on the back of our shirts, even though the shirts will never be able to adequately explain the joy many of us felt in our team from this E-town experience.  This annual E-town meet has never been four full days of prelims and finals, and yet now that it’s over, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.  With many going off to college, and some moving away, the profile of our team always changes, but our results always seem to be the same.  I thoroughly enjoyed this most recent version of our team, and I hope that you will hear this in the following.

In order of importance, some thoughts:

*It was fun.  Swimming an end-of-the-season meet in an outdoor pool in the summer is risky, and never easy.  Battling the elements, heat in this case, makes it a little more difficult than in a perfect indoor climate.  Warming up as the sun comes up, swimming backstroke with bright sun in our eyes, trying to stay in the shade in the afternoon and evening sessions, and doing this for four days in a row – wow.  On a couple of days, I actually got in to swim – maybe a little for fitness, but also for a cool-down – and I always get a quick reminder about how hard it is to swim 50 meters.  And to watch these HA swimmers go up and down the pool so often, you totally can’t understand it unless the you’ve experienced it. I have experienced it, but I was in awe of them again when my legs cramped up after one 50 of backstroke kick.  Best times or not, we all have to be so proud of those who do this, and live to tell about it.

*The percentage of best times that we had as a team is the reason that my drive home was so enjoyable.  I can’t imagine what it would be like if we didn’t do well.  But it was literally one best time after another.  We are, but it sure doesn’t look like HA is one of the smallest teams in this meet.  Several coaches made comments to me about how well we were swimming and that is always nice to hear.  And some random man from Race (Bowling Green) stopped me yesterday and went on and on about how great HA was swimming.  I don’t mind hearing this either.

HA had a LOT of trips to the medal stand.  Senior Lily DeLong won 3 State Championships, winning the 50-100-200 Free’s with 2-3 lifetime bests.  Senior Lou Elayi won a State Championship in a beautiful 200 Breast, and added 3 lifetime bests.  And a 3rd HA swimmer to win a State Championship – see #2 below.  Libby Livesay and Amelia Lee led the team with both girls winning (5) top 8 medals each, which included Amelia’s (3) 2nd place finished and Libby finishing 2nd in the State twice.  Margaret Wilson and Gabriel Camenisch each won two Top 8 medals.  Caroline DeLong medaled when she finished 8th in the 100 Breast, and little 9YO Elise Galan did the same thing when she won a medal by finishing 8th in the 100 Free (see #6 below).

But I have to highlight one shocking result that has been building for the past many months.  Yesterday, in the Open Men’s 50 Free, Jackson Campbell dropped enough time in his 50 Free to qualify in the Top 8!  This is the 1st time that he’s ever done this in his career in an individual event.  But what’s wild about this statement is that, honestly, no one in their right mind would’ve/could’ve imagined this a year ago.  In a terrific swim back at the Versailles meet in the 1000 Free, Jackson was finally able to attend a 13&O State meet back in March.  But at the taco party before this meet began, I asked the team who was the hardest worker on the team, the name “Jackson” came out of most mouths.  I would wholeheartedly agree.  You may read this newsletter, smile, silently think “Oh that’s really good to finish in the Top 8,” and clap your hands for this 17YO young man, but let me tell you, you probably don’t understand the hard work, perseverance, and passion that went into this and made it possible.  Trust me, there are a lot of reasons why this was a tremendous weekend for HA, but this is one of the reasons why it is all so worthwhile.

*And, of course I’m biased, but I thought we looked great.  The different shirts and caps each day, and the way we all look together, this is something that is important to me – our team spirit and sportsmanship.  Thanks to those who do the little things.  Thanks to those who show up early to put up tents, wear the team colors, and support these athletes in so many ways.

The “Swimmer of the Meet” is Brinlee Vittitow.  In all of her events, this 14YO girl dropped more time than any other swimmer.  What is incredibly interesting though, is that Brinlee went to every meet this summer and dropped a lot of time in each one of them.  Even just 4 weeks before E-town, she had unbelievable drops at the Evansville meet, and even at the Kingsport meet.  Ironically, or actually I should say not ironically, she also made more workouts this season than any other swimmer.  Never underestimate the importance of practice attendance.  For someone to do well at this meet, you have to consider the whole body of work from April 14th until the day before the meet, and for that reason, Brinlee’s weekend was well-deserved.  Not only did Brinlee swim the maximum number of events allowed, she swam every single one of them again in the finals at night.  You really ought to take a look at her individual results page to understand how many events she actually competed in, then throw relays into the mix.  It was a brutal schedule, but one that she handled because of her extreme dedication this summer.  Only last night when her knuckles were dragging did she miss a best time, by only 3/10’s of a second in the 400 Free sundown event.

The Top 10 Performances of the 2023 Kentucky Swimming Long Course State Championships:

#1 – Jack Lee – 200 Butterfly.  Jack was the only swimmer on the team who swam the maximum number of events, and had a lifetime best in every one of them!  But it’s not like they were all 50’s and 100’s.  Jack’s weekend, like Brinlee’s was pretty excruciating with (2) 200 Fly’s, (2) 400 Free’s, etc…  On Thursday morning, Jack dropped a very impressive 3.5 seconds in this event, which allowed him to swim it again later that night – a swimmer’s nightmare J to swim this event twice in one day!  That night, however, Jack dropped another unreal 9 seconds for a 12.14 overall.  But, hold your horses, you have to know this to truly understand the rest of the story.  At the Derby meet in May, Jack dropped 30.35 seconds in this event.  Just 3 weeks later, he dropped another 8.23 at the Kingsport meet.  Then, again at Evansville, he dropped 4.25.  Right here, this shows the work that Jack has put into this.  To drop another 12.14 in E-town, this deserves to be the top swim of the weekend.  Fantastic weekend!

#2 – Joshua Tatro – 100 Free.  This is probably the one event that will be remembered most from the 2023 State meet in E-town.  This event brought more tears of joy than probably any other event I’ve ever seen.  It is also the PERFECT example of what I was talking about at the taco dinner, and what I explained about the back of our shirts.  A great swim has to have emotion like no other; it has to have a heartbeat beating out of your skin.  You have to want something that many will never understand.  Joshua started the season with a 57.32, which is already amazingly fast for any 15 & Over experienced swimmer.  His Futures goal time of 53.89 seemed a bit ambitious for a short long-course season.  But Joshua assured me that that’s what he wanted to do, and that’s what he was going to do.  His determination and his focus and his emotion to accomplish this mission cannot be adequately described in a few sentences in a post-meet newsletter.  You would have had to have been there to believe it.  And if you didn’t get goose-bumps watching this swim, you’re not American.  Not only did he make his first Futures cut ever, he totally won the entire event, beating bigger and older swimmers along the way, with a 53.40.  And, he also set a new HA team record!! The old team record, 53.92, has been held since 7/26/2001, 22 years ago, from a swimmer named Eric Schwartz.  Off to Fargo we go!

#3 – Clara Hildebrandt – 400 Free.  Clara had a terrific weekend, and you would have to agree with me, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer girl.  Sadly, this was Clara’s last meet with HA before she moves to Missouri, but she finished off her HA career in style.  She has been such a polite and wonderful person; it has truly been a joy to be her coach.  To see her have such a great 200 Breast (-5.79) and come back for the finals was so special.  But on Sunday, an incredible goal to break 5:00 in a 400 Free came true when Clara dropped 8.60 seconds and did this one again in the finals.  I’ve had a lot of wonderful people move away over the years, but this one hurts.  I am grateful that her family was able to be a part of HA for these past couple of years, and I wish them nothing but the best in the future years!!

#4 – Amelia Lee – 200 Back.  In her 6 races, Amelia had 4 bests, but the best one had to be last night’s 200 Back.  Amelia is still only just 15, and yet she set a new team record in this event.  The old record was held by Jenna Ballinger, 2:28.75, set back in 2010.  Amelia went a 2:26.80, and my guess is that she can set a few more records in coming years.

#5 – Brinlee Vittitow – 200 Fly.  Very similar to Jack Lee’s #1 swim of the meet, Brinlee’s progress in the 200 Fly throughout the summer has been admirable.  So to drop an additional 14.62 seconds in the finals Thursday night was a gorgeous swim.

#6 – Elise Galan – 100 Free.  Seeded 15, Elise dropped an amazing 6.83 seconds and finished 8th in the 100 Free.  This was her 1st medal in USA Swimming ever, and she’s still only 9YO!  Elise ended up 4-5 bests and scored Top 16 in two other events, as well.  In this same 100 Free, Ava Klefot also had a huge drop, -5.86, and was the only 8YO to compete in this 10 & Under event.

#7 – Tie between Libby Livesay and Sophie Hildebrandt – 200 Fly.  Personally, one of the things that I was most pleased about throughout the entire weekend was how well the older girls did.  In talking with other coaches, practically all agree that one of the most difficult things about coaching females is to keep them progressing in the upper teenage years.  Even this weekend, I noticed that other teams were struggling with this.  So I just have to hand it to the HA group of senior girls.  Libby swam in 6 individual events and had 5 lifetime bests.  Her 200 Breast was great; last night’s 200 IM was a gem, but her 6.50-second drop in a 200 Fly was indicative of her training habits.  Likewise for Sophie.  Sophie was also in 6 individual events and added 5 lifetime bests.  Her 200 Fly had a 5.33 second drop and she was able to compete at night in both the 100 and 200 Fly events.  This was just a great way to finish off their high school careers before heading off to college for Libby and Sophie, as well as Lou Elayi and Lily DeLong mentioned above.  Lili Elayi even had 2 lifetime bests with two great swims in her 200 Fly and 200 Back!  And Caroline Short came close to a couple best times, and some great relay swims before she heads off to Centre College.  And along with Shelby Gaddis who did so well to make it to this weekend, it has been, and continues to be a fantastic group of senior girls.  And thanks to Stella Plummer and Morgan Edwards for swimming some great relay swims, too!

#8 – Margaret Wilson – 200 Fly.  Margaret Wilson celebrated her 16th birthday in style on Thursday, for sure.  She started off with a great 200 Free, scoring in the console heat, but then dropped 5.74 seconds in a 2Fly to finish 9th overall.  She, however, would probably prefer her 2.57-second drop in her 100 Fly, which landed her 6th overall in the medal heat, and then again 8th overall in the 400 Free.  Either way, it was a super weekend for Margaret, 6 out of 7 bests!!

#9 – Andrew Tatro – 800 Free.  Out of our entire team, the person who could possibly have the most to look forward to in another year might have to be 13YO Andrew.  He had a remarkable weekend with 8-9 bests and a lot of big-time drops.  But the one swim that truly shows how hard this young man works was the 800 Free.  At the halfway point, he almost had a lifetime best 400 Free, and then negative split the 800.  He dropped 19.25 seconds, and unlike many, certainly doesn’t shy away from the longer races.  He also ended up 14th and scored in this event!  Mark my word – watch for his names in the headlines for the next 2 State meets, short course and then long course in another year from now.

#10 – The 11-12 Girl’s 200 Medley Relay team of Mia Campbell, Riley Nelson, Catherine Gaddis, and Caroline Broadbent.  This was a lot of fun!  These girls were seeded 9th, and of course in that position, you always want to see if you can move up to the Top 8 and get a medal.  But they did so well, they moved all the way up to 3rd place overall!!

Mia Campbell led it off with a lifetime best 50 Back.  Riley Nelson was 3 out of 4 lifetime best in her weekend, and had a great breaststroke split here.  But the outrageous split came from Catherine’s 50 Fly.  I hope someone recorded this one.  And then Caroline Broadbent brought it home with a super freestyle anchor leg.  But what’s really cool about this relay team is that Mia and Catherine are still only 11, and ALL four girls will still be 12&U next March for the nest State meet.  This really makes it fun to look forward to that one.

Kudos to Allisson Newsom who came to cheer on her teammates.  And the same for Caroline Lee and Will Graves who showed up to support the blue and yellow!

A huge honorable mention has to go to 16YO Cooper Downey for his 100 Breast.  Cooper could only swim this event courtesy of a short-course time, but then proceeded to drop 8.47 seconds off of his 100 Breast time, which even made it to the finals Thursday night.  He, too, has an awful lot to look forward to in the next year.  The same goes for Alex Smetanko, who with only two weeks in the water and a brace over a broken hand, had a best time in his 100 Breast!

And to round out those who scored in this meet, Sam DeLong had a perfect 4-4 weekend and scored Top 16 in his 50 breast by dropping 2.19 seconds!!


Gabriel Camenisch is off to Cary, NC as part of the KY Zone all-star team this week.  Gabriel added 6 lifetime bests this weekend and two trips to the medal stand!!


Libby, Amelia, and now Joshua and I are headed to West Fargo, North Dakota for the USA Swimming Futures Championships, July 26-29.  Safe traveling and good swimming to all.


Way to go HA!!