By Contributor Brenten Gilbert

Lead photo: A highlight for many of the swimmers is getting to pose on the podium with their newly earned medal. (photo credit: Colleen Corrado)

Kicking off the Fourth of July festivities in true “Swim Family” fashion, the Bridlewood Bridlewaves opened up their pool deck to five other PWSL teams for the fifth annual Stars and Stripes Invitational meet. This all-star meet always promises to be an action-packed, fun-filled, standing room only event featuring the top swimmers from each team. This meet has grown over the past five years into a highly competitive event and a staple for the 4th of July holiday. 

Swimmers and Coaches watch their teammates on the crowded deck.
(photo credit: Ginger Carroll)

The Stars and Stripes Invitational is an exhibition meet that features all four swimming disciplines, medley relays, and a crescendo freestyle relay. Each team is allowed to bring one medley team for each age group and gender to swim in the relay and individual events. Swimmers participate in their assigned discipline for both the relay and the individual event. For example, a swimmer competing in the backstroke event also swims the backstroke leg of the medley relay. The crescendo relay includes one swimmer from each age group to swim freestyle, regardless of their specific discipline.

Swimmers from Dominion Valley, Kingsbrooke, Wellington, Ben Lomond, and Virginia Oaks  returned to compete against four-time champions and hosts, the Bridlewood BWaves. Winning swimmers were recognized by receiving their medals during podium ceremonies at specific breaks. Brentsville District Supervisor Jeanine Lawson was on hand to distribute the medals and congratulate each swimmer throughout the meet.  Another staple of the meet, the teams collected over 350 pounds worth of food and goods to donate to the Northern Virginia Family Services SERVE campus in Manassas. Attendees also raised $150 in donations for the Serve Our Willing Warriors Project, which is located in Haymarket.

Brentsville District Supervisor Jeanine Lawson congratulates Stars and Stripes winners with a medal and a high five on the awards podium. (photo credit: Colleen Corrado)

This year, the skies threatened to rain and the humidity weighed heavy around the pool deck, but the weather was not a factor. In a meet that has become something of a launching pad for the second half of the season, an astounding 72.5% of the individual swims resulted in personal best times for swimmers. These time improvements resulted in 24 swimmers achieved record times in 16 of the 52 events on the docket. The racing was intense at times as multiple swimmers broke records in the same event, side-by-side, knowing that only the top time would rule the record board. 

Notably, the 15-18 Girls from Bridlewood (Sarah Yowell, Georgia Johnson, Erin Quinn, and Shay Walker) put together a relay swim that would have bettered the county-wide record, were it not for the fact that these are exhibition swims. Their time of 2:03.21 rings up at just under a second faster than the current standard, building anticipation for some exciting races in the final four meets of the season.

Individual Record Breakers include the following: 

8&U Boys: Jacob Hochard (Kingsbrooke), Mateus Nunes Fuller (Wellington), Justin Young (Kingsbrooke), Ethan Beckner (Bridlewood)

8&U Girls: Ellie Wells (Bridlewood), Rachel Hou (Dominion Valley)

9-10 Boys: Lionel Martinez (Wellington), Tyler Kurre (Dominion Valley), Jacob Cho (Dominion Valley), Daniel Uribe (Bridlewood)

9-10 Girls: Lucy Lu (Dominion Valley)

11-12 Boys: Ryan Maynard (Dominion Valley), Paul Querijero (Bridlewood)

11-12 Girls: Madalyn Witt (Bridlewood), Lucy Daniel (Kingsbrooke)

13-14 Boys: Brandon Gardner (Bridlewood), Lleyton Arnold (Dominion Valley)

15-18 Girls: Catherine Purnell (Ben Lomond), Georgia Johnson (Bridlewood), Abby Daniel (Kingsbrooke)

Relay teams from Bridlewood, Kingsbrooke, Wellington, and Dominion Valley each raced to record times as well.

Bridlewaves Swimmers Erin Quinn, Georgia Johnson, Sarah Yowell, and Shay Walker celebrate a win in the Medley Relay. (photo credit: Georgia Johnson)

When all was said and done, the BWaves led the medal count (43) and points total (335), earning their fifth straight meet Championship trophy. Dominion Valley (316) and Kingsbrooke (243) took second and third place, respectively. More importantly, the Stars and Stripes Invitational was once again successful in providing a fun way for swimmers to compete and give back to the surrounding community. Plans are already underway for next year’s event.

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