Bentley, Nandua swim coach, has spent a life at the pool

COURTESY PHOTO K.J. Bentley, center, poses for a photo with daughters Grace and Sarah at the 2022 VHSL Region 2A Championship.

BY ADOLPHUS AMES, Eastern Shore Post

The Nandua Warriors girls varsity swim team had its most successful season last year. The team won the Region 2A Championship and finished in fourth place at the 2022 Class 2A State Championship.

Prior to last season, the team had not finished higher than 17th in state competition. Kathryn J. Bentley, the head coach of the girls swim team, uses the accomplishments as motivation to achieve bigger goals this season.

“I would love to see the girls repeat as regional champs and improve on their fourth-place position in state competition,” said Bentley.

This is Bentley’s second season as head coach of the Warriors. She also coaches the swim team at the Onley Recreation Association with John Kellam. She has coached the team, consisting of children from ages 4 to 18, for five summers.

Bentley, who grew up in Connecticut and went to high school in South Carolina, has been involved with swimming since childhood. 

Her mother was a collegiate swimmer and taught babies from ages 3 months to 1 year old how to float and swim. Bentley started swimming competitively at age 10. In high school, she was a member of a club swim team coached by her mother.

After high school, Bentley attended University of North Carolina Wilmington where she competed on the girls swim team. She swam the 50-meter and 100-meter freestyle. 

During her freshman year, the team won the Eastern College Athletic Conference championship. In her sophomore and junior years, UNCW’s girls swim team won the Colonial Athletic Association championship.

Bentley’s favorite aspect about swimming is that it is both an individual and a team sport.

“In other sports, athletes can talk and discuss things during the game,” she said. “Swimmers can’t communicate in action because your head is underwater in a pool. You have to be committed and have an internal drive to keep going.”

Bentley did not expect to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a coach. She started coaching because her kids were swimming, and Nandua needed a coach. 

She draws on her past experience as a competitor to succeed as a coach. 

“It doesn’t matter if you have great swimming ability or no swimming ability when you try out for the team,” said Bentley. “If you show up to practice every day and put in effort, you will become a swimmer. Everyone on the team is supportive of each other.”

The outlook is promising as Bentley leads the Warriors toward their goal of repeating as regional champs. 

The team lost several seniors but added nine new swimmers to the roster. Four returning swimmers placed and scored at the state championship last year: Grace Bentley, Emma Cathey, Meya Charnock, and Morgan Johnson. 

These four competed in individual and relay events, contributing 160 points to the team’s total score of 192.

The Warriors have a 3-2 season record. Their most recent victory came against Seaford High School, Jan. 6. The Warriors won, 48-18. Their next swim meet will be at home Friday, Jan. 20. They will compete against Bruton High School.

“It’s amazing to go to meets and watch both teams cheer for the last swimmer in the pool,” said Bentley. “The level of sportsmanship is so high in swimming. I think it’s because everyone knows how hard you have to work to be successful. The swimming community has always been a positive place for me.”

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