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Records fall as Stoneleigh Sharks return to summer swim

After the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a year off from swim team last year, the Stoneleigh Sharks were chomping for a chance to compete in summer 2021, and they took a big bite out of pool records.

A dozen new pool-best times were logged — the most records broken in one season in the Sharks’ history. The updated record board was unveiled at the season wrap-up and awards celebration on Sept. 4. Congratulations to:

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Jude Burkhart: 9-10 100 IM(1.17.80), 25 Fly(14.67), and 25 Back(16.22)

Claire Chason: 15-18 100 Free(52.56) and 50 Back(27.00)

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Cecilia van Lierop: 13-14 100 Free (51.79), 50 Fly (26.81), 50 Back(28.67), and 100 IM(59.88)

Hans van Lierop: 15-18 50 Fly(24.09)

Soren Ronson: 6 & under 25 Back(21.91)

Ellie Scherer:15-18 100 IM(59.81)

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Sharks swimmers unveil the new pool record board at the end-of-season celebration. From left are Claire Chason, Cecilia van Lierop, Soren Ronson, Jude Burkart and Hans van Lierop.
Sharks swimmers unveil the new pool record board at the end-of-season celebration. From left are Claire Chason, Cecilia van Lierop, Soren Ronson, Jude Burkart and Hans van Lierop. (Emma Burkhart)

Six amazing coaches fueled the Sharks success. Tom Till, celebrated head coach at Goucher College, has been coaching Sharks for eight years alongside Brian Loeffler, who is entering his 30th season as head coach of Loyola University swimming and diving. Loeffler is also a top Paralympic swim coach. In fact, as this Sharks’ season wound down, Loeffler was in Tokyo gearing up for the 2020 Paralympic Summer Games. Cortney Jordan was coached by Loeffler as a Paralympic swimmer and earned 12 medals ( one gold, eight silver, three bronze) in the Beijing, London, and Rio games. Longtime Sharks coach and local legend George Kennedy is former head swim coach at Johns Hopkins University and current assistant coach at Loyola University. Anthony van Lierop joined the Sharks coaching crew in 2016. A native of Suriname, van Lierop was the first international swimmer to swim collegiately at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and represented Suriname in swimming, cycling and the triathlon. Rounding out the staff is Tim Loeffler, a former Shark swimmer.

“The value that the young swimmers [ages 4, 5, and 6] get from having teammates who are 15 to 18 is in providing a real role-model scenario. The little ones look up to the older ones,” said Kennedy. Swimmers Nia Fisher and Claire Chason were recognized with this season’s Leadership Award.

There were 259 swimmers on the 2021 Sharks. “Before we started this season, I had no idea what to expect in team size, how many new swimmers, how many would return, or how many might be unsure about coming back to swim,” said Coach Till. “The first practices we had so many swimmers show up and it gave the coaches a feeling like we were heading back toward ‘normal.’ Week to week, coaches could see such big improvements from the first days, unlike any they could recall.” Nora Omron and Colt Mitchell were named the season’s overall Most Improved swimmers.

“Records are meant to be broken and is a sign of progress for the team. However, breaking records is not what it is all about,” said van Lierop. “Making progress and improving yourself is. We are aiming for growth and getting the best out of each swimmer — every one of them is an asset and is needed to make a team.”

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