“Maybe it’s something in the water..” A look at the Olympic Swimming legacy of Stone Ridge


BETHESDA, Md. (WDVM) – Before donning the red, white, and blue; both Katie Ledecky, and Phoebe Bacon would shatter the record books as Stone Ridge Gators. A fortunate coincidence, or not; it does beg the question – what is in the water at Stone Ridge?

“We’ve just been lucky right? I mean I don’t want to say that in a bad way.” said Head Coach Bob Walker, “Maybe it is something in the water.”

During the 2020 Olympic trials, there were four Stone Ridge alums, and current students combined; that participated for a shot at representing their nation. Katie Ledecky will be going to her third Olympics, while Phoebe Bacon celebrates her first stint. But whether it’s luck, or some formula in the water; it’s still a part of the Stone Ridge infrastructure.

“Stone Ridge is unique in the fact that we have a pool on campus, and I think that attracts a lot of strong swimmers in the area.” said Athletic Director Andrew Maguire, “When we had Katie, it was exciting for other swimmers to come. And now that we had Phoebe, it was exciting for other swimmers to come; and now we’ve had Erin [Gemmell], and it’ll be more exciting for future swimmers to come, and kind of follow in their footsteps.

Erin Gemmell is a rising junior at Stone Ridge, and is also a member of the 2021 USA Junior National Team. That’s only scratching the surface of her long list of achievements; including near-complete dominance on all the Stone Ridge Middle School swim records. As she explains; all of that was made possible through Stone Ridge’s help.

“I think a lot of it is how supportive all the coaches, Bob [Walker] are. And the teachers are really great, in how; if you swim outside of high school, and you need to leave early for a practice, they’ll be really helpful with letting you leave, and any of the work you might miss from meets.” said Erin, “A lot of it comes down to the ability that we all have to go to opportunities that we might have, and not miss practices – and do whatever we need to do.”

Through her success at Stone Ridge, Erin was able to place 9th overall at this year’s Olympic swim trials; but her favorite takeaway from the event didn’t really have much to do with swimming.

“They look so intimidating behind the blocks but then you’re there, and there is jenga set up in the athlete hospitality area.” said Erin, “And people are playing cornhole – and joking around. It’s just so nice to learn these are people too.”

And thanks to the sheer amount of talent Erin, and her teammates have been exposed to, because of Stone Ridge; that lesson was much more digestible.

“There’s nothing special we do here.” said Head Coach Bob Walker, “We just have things that we just think are important. We instill them upon our sports teams, or our girls in school here and it becomes common nature. So it’s – ‘who’s next?'”.

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