SW Va. takes a regional approach to swimming success

Kevin Mays • Feb 9, 2018 at 11:30 AM

In most cases, neighboring high schools are the bitterest of rivals when it comes to athletics.

In at least one case, however, athletes from neighboring schools get along like teammates. Because, when they’re not competing against each other in VHSL events, they actually are teammates.

The Blue Marlins swim club of Southwest Virginia has been under the direction of coach Dart Luce-Edwards since 2009. The Blue Marlins, which uses the pool at Virginia-Wise as its home base, is comprised of swimmers from throughout the region. 

“It’s a melting pot where everyone in the region comes to one location at UVa-Wise and we embrace each other and swim with each other. And we compete against and for each other,” said Luce-Edwards. 

Several of the swimmers compete with the Blue Marlins in the summer in the Bristol Area Swim Association. 

When the VHSL season starts in the winter, the team members at the high school level become  competitors, swimming for their own individual high schools. 

When Luce-Edwards came to the region nearly a decade ago, local high schools did not have swim teams. After organizing a club team, Luce-Edwards and the club started working on generating interest at high schools.

The first year, J.I. Burton started a swimming program. Eight  years later, Luce-Edwards serves as coach for five of the 12 schools in far Southwest Virginia that have swimming programs. 

The coach guides swimming programs from four different school districts at Rye Cove, Union, Wise Central, Ridgeview and Burton high schools. Burton did not have any swimmers for this season, but Luce-Edwards said the program is still alive and kicking and will have swimmers in future seasons.

“This year we’ve seen our largest overall turnout. We’ve had 21 people from four schools. The hope is within the next five years we’re looking at 40 to 45 swimmers,” said Luce-Edwards. “I think the way we’ve been going with our success individually, and as a team, it can keep growing.”

The Blue Marlins team has won the BASA championship six out of the nine years the club team has been in competition.

Several team members have also excelled at the high school level. 

This week three members - Ashley Cusano and Ty Bloomer of Union, and Rye Cove’s R.J. Goins - won regional titles in their events. Goins, a sophomore, set a regional record in the 500 freestyle. All three will compete Thursday in the state championships in Richmond. 


A host of prep football stars announced their intentions to play football at various colleges earlier this week. 

Typical of his low-key approach, Wise Central’s Dalton Mullins, a four-year starter for the Warriors who holds several of the program’s career records, quietly  announced that he will continue playing football at Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, Tennessee.

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