Last Updated: Apr 27th, 2015 - 11:04:56

Colonial Heights swimmer is making waves with two state titles
By JAMES PEACEMAKER JR., Managing editor
Mar 9, 2014, 11:41

COLONIAL HEIGHTS -- Abigail Richey started swimming competitively for one simple reason.

She remembers when she was 8 years old and her family would go to the pool. It would be closed every Thursday night for the summer league swim meets, and one of her friends participated.

“I got really disappointed when the pool was closed for meets, so I was like ‘Hey, I want to join the swim team’ and swim in the pool when it’s closed for meets. ... I felt really special being able to swim in the pool when no one else could,” she said.

Now an 11th-grader at Colonial Heights High School, she still rarely has anyone swimming in front of her, as she is the 200-yard and 500-yard freestyle 3A state champion.

Her recent win at the state finals in Christiansburg Feb. 20-22 was the second time she won a state final. Last year, she won the 200 freestyle in AAA before groups were realigned.

This year, she finished the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:50.12, going the length of the 25-yard pool back and forth eight times.

She knew she was in a good position to win because she had the best time going into the meet, but winning doesn’t come without a lot of work.

“I’ve got a disadvantage because I am shorter than a lot of other swimmers,” Richey said.

She is 5 foot 6 inches, while many swimmers are 5 foot 8 inches or taller, she said.

“You can grab more water with longer arms and legs,” she said.

Richey has a grueling schedule, practicing eight times a week.

“I have two practices in the morning before school and afternoon practices after school and there is a Saturday morning practice,” she said.

“It’s definitely a challenge” to juggle swimming and school work, Richey said. “I get it done. I’m not sure how, but I get it done. ... I don’t really have much time after school to sit back and relax.”

She said it really helps that her parents, Kevin and Darlene Richey, have been very supportive of her swimming.

“I remember last year when I won my first state title, my mom decorated my room. After I got back, when I went into my room, there was streamers all over my room,” Richey said.

She is a bit of an anomaly in her family though, being the only one who swims competitively. She said her family is more the artistic type -- drawing, acting, singing and dancing. Her sister, Elyse, is into performing.

But Abigail does enjoy art as well, and takes one practice off once a month to participate in the Art Club at Colonial Heights High School. She said drawing in her spare time helps her relax.

Richey also said she has great coaches, Colonial Heights High School coach Shastin Kuschke and her year-round club coach Jamie Greenwood at NOVA Aquatic Center in Richmond.

Richey said her year-round coach has been with her since she started swimming, and many in the group have been together for years.

“My entire year-round team has been like a second family to me,” she said.

Richey competed this weekend with her year-round club in the Virginia Swimming Senior Championships at the Collegiate School Aquatic Center in Richmond.

Richey said it is much more competitive than high school swimming.

Last year at the statewide club finals, she came in second in the 200-yard freestyle, finishing a split second before the winner.

Next year, Richey hopes she can add to her high-school medal count.

Richey said her second best stroke is the butterfly, but she is limited on the number of events she can participate in for high school competitions. Virginia High School League rules only allow her to compete in two individual events plus two relays.

She hopes the Colonial Heights High School relay teams will be able to win, noting that there are other really good swimmers on the team.

“I want everyone else to know what it’s like to stand on the first-place podium,” she said.

As for the future, she plans on swimming in college once she graduates but hasn’t settled on where she wants to go. She said she wants to go to whichever school gives her the best offer and has the major she wants. “As long as I like the team and the coach,” she said.

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