Aldie (March 10, 2016) — John Champe High School senior Joaquin Gabriel has made a commitment to continue his swimming career at the United States Naval Academy beginning in the 2016-2017 academic year.
“No more worrying about SATs, ACTs, transcripts or college, in general,” the 5-foot-7 Gabriel said. “However, USNA made me certain to not slack off in my last stretch of senior year and to not let senioritis overcome. So even though I know where I am attending college, I still need to keep up my studies and, more importantly, my swimming.”
“The United States Naval Academy’s history of academic and athletic excellence is the primary reason in my decision to pursue my education there,” Gabriel said. “Not only would I be securing my future by attending the USNA, but I get to do the greatest honor of all which is serving my country. In addition, having an education comparable to an Ivy school will open opportunities in civilian life.”
Most USNA graduates fulfill a minimum five-year active duty service obligation upon graduation from Annapolis and with that Gabriel is excited to serve the United States of America.
“It is a great honor that I can’t even explain the feeling of being offered the opportunity to serve my country,” Gabriel said. “Just the fact that I’ll be part of something bigger, something with a greater meaning above me, is truly something special.”
Gabriel’s service requirement is a bit down the road, but in the near future for Gabriel is four years of collegiate swimming with the Division I Midshipmen. In 2015-2016, the Navy men and women won the Patriot League Championship for the fifth straight year. Led by head coach Bill Roberts, the Midshipmen also claimed the Eastern College Athletic Conference team title.
“Navy already has excellent breaststrokers and IMers some of which are even Olympic trial qualifiers,” Gabriel said. “However, I think I can provide an extra push for the team and further develop my skills with the coaching staff and the group. I think that I can mostly add to the camaraderie and the brotherhood that is present on the team.”
As a member of the first class of Knights to complete all four years of high school at John Champe, Gabriel knows a little something about camaraderie.
“During freshman and sophomore year, it was really hard because there were not a lot of people on the team, and it was very boring. I remember attending our first state meet in ninth grade and there were only three of us who qualified,” Gabriel said. “However, in junior and senior year, we started getting more students trying out for the team and with size and skill, we started to win more meets. Looking back at it, it was a good four-year run to be able to win medals and trophies as a team and represent such a young school.”
Gabriel is a decorated high school student-athlete as a three-time all-state performer during his senior year after individually placing second in the 100-yard breaststroke as well as helping the Knights place first in the 200-yard medley relay and third in the 200-yard freestyle relay at the VHSL 4A state championships.
The Knights 200-yard medley relay — featuring Kyle Barker, Michael Kaslik, Andrew Yaunches and Gabriel – was named the 2015-2016 All-LoCo Boys Relay of the Year. Gabriel also earned second team All-LoCo honors as an individual.
Even for the most decorated swimmers, each and every journey into swimming is different. After starting swimming in second grade, Gabriel did not realize his love for or his potential in the pool until middle school.
“I started to form a very close bond with my teammates and began qualifying for finals in swim meets. In eighth grade, I won my first Junior Olympic event, and it was then that I realized I could have a chance at going far in this amazing sport,” Gabriel said. “At Snow Swimming, we have a very close-knit group; we have been together since we were kids, and we love to support each other at every meet. We always push each other, and it just adds to the overall experience of waking up every morning for practice.”
Gabriel’s John Champe and Snow teammates — along with his dad — have pushed him to succeed in the pool and in other facets of life.
“He has driven me to every practice whether it was 5:30 a.m. or 6 p.m. He brought me to meets that are two hours away, and he was there for me when I gained time or when I dropped time,” Gabriel said. “I have him to thank for all of my accomplishments.”