HARRISONBURG — Swimming is a year-round sport for Sarah Arnold.
As a junior at Broadway this past season, Arnold shined as the Gobblers’ standout performer, reaching the Virginia High School League Class 3 meet in February.
Once the season ended, however, it was truly just getting started for Arnold.
“With Sarah being an all-year swimmer, we share her with [Valley Area Swim Team],” Broadway coach Kajsa Svarfvar said. “My biggest role is to balance and supplement Sarah’s practice and meet performances so that she can be successful on both teams. Being mindful and aware of what is happening at VAST and collaborating with their coaches makes it a win-win for everyone involved.”
VAST, otherwise known as the Virginia Gators, are a competitive year-round swimming team based out of Harrisonburg that features athletes from all over the area.
Arnold originally started swimming at the age of 8 with the Broadway Sharks — a summer-league swim team — but joined the Gators when she was 11 and has stuck with them since.
“I just love how swimming pushes me to be my best,” Arnold said. “I love the friends that it has given me.”
When not swimming with the Gobblers, Arnold said she trains full-time with the Gators throughout the year. She said she practices as many as eight times, sometimes twice each day, per week.
This year, before Arnold enters her final season at Broadway, will be especially pivotal to her growth and she’ll have the luxury of doing it under two new coaches.
The Gators announced earlier this week that they’ve hired Rami Pinzon as the program’s new head coach and her husband, Omar Pinzon, as head age-group coach.
“I am very excited to be a part of this team.” Rami Pinzon said. “My husband, Omar, and I are working very hard to prepare the team to move to the next competitive level.”
Rami has over 15 years over coaching experience and represented her home country of Lithuania in the 2008 Beijing Olympics as well as the World and European Championships. She swam at Southern Methodist University on scholarship prior to that.
Her husband, Omar, is a four-time Olympian while representing his home country of Colombia and swam at Florida, where he was a 14-time All-American.
“It truly has been an exciting step in our careers,” Omar said. “I am optimistic about the potential in these swimmers.”
The Gators are currently ranked as the No. 9 USA Swimming Club in the country and Arnold said her success at BHS wouldn’t be possible without them.
“In eighth grade, I really developed a passion for swimming,” Arnold said. “I pushed myself further and trained to be the best I possibly could. … I had my biggest improvements in ninth grade and have been dropping little by little in every event ever since.”
Arnold said her time swimming with both Broadway and the Gators has helped improve her technique, but has also helped her gain friendships outside of the pool.
This past season, she qualified for the state meet in the 50 and the 100 freestyle, but said next year she hopes to finish in the top three and earn all-state status.
“Sarah is very driven, focused and determined,” Svarfvar said. “She comes to practice to give her all. When she does not accomplish her goal, she will refocus and work on what she can to make sure she meets her goal the next time around.”
It was the most memorable year of her high school career, Arnold said, and one that she said motivates her for success this summer and next year before she heads off to college.
“I love everything about my team,” Arnold said. “I’ve had the best times of my life. This past season was one that I will never forget. This season, I became closer to my team, my coach, my friends. This year, my team became my family.”
Arnold already owns multiple swimming records at Broadway and is well-respected around the Gators program with her mom, Beth, serving as the club’s president.
The soft-spoken, but driven, Arnold said each season of swim provides a new challenge and that’s what she enjoys about the sport, whether it be with the Gobblers or Gators.
As long as she maintains that energy and enthusiasm, both teams remain in good hands.
“She has shown great growth as a leader and is very respected by her peers,” Svarfvr said. “She is a great role model for other swimmers in the program. We have a pretty small team, but with swimmers like Sarah, I feel we are pretty mighty.”