Servati leads Tupelo boys to 4th straight

By GENE PHELPS / NEMS Daily Journal

BILOXI – Tupelo High School swim coach Lucas Smith can add another “to back” to his 2010 state championship ring.
Smith’s Golden Wave boys team, powered by senior John Servati, scored 401 points to win their fourth consecutive MHSAA Swim Championships title Saturday at the Biloxi Natatorium.
“I knew we had a good team,” Smith said. “This feels great. I’m excited for this group. A lot of these guys were part of these four state championship teams.”
Madison Central finished second at 247, 154 points behind the Golden Wave.
Oxford’s Lady Chargers won the girls state championship with 290.5 points. Tupelo, the defending state champion, finished second with 216.
Servati’s big day
Servati swam to state records in the 200-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke, and was a member of two state record-setting relay units – 200 medley and 200 freestyle.
“I couldn’t be happier,” Servati said, moments after winning the 100 backstroke. “I knew this was my last race. I thought I might as well go out with a bang.”
Servati swam a time of 1 minute, 41.95 seconds to win the 200 freestyle and recorded a 51.48 in the 100 backstroke.
Servati, Rick Deaton, Mihailo Nikolic and Jackson Nabors won the 200 freestyle relay in 1:28.89, breaking the old mark of 1:32.58 set by Tupelo in 2007. Servati was a member of that unit, too.
In the meet’s first event, the 200 medley relay, Servati, Deaton, Nabors and Colton Fremont swam a 1:38.60 to smash the state record of 1:40.78 set last year by the Golden Wave. Servati, Deaton and Nabors were on that unit.
“John Servati had an unbelievable day,” Smith said. “To win four events and set four state records. You can’t get any better than that.
“John’s worked hard for it. I can’t think of a better way for him to go out.”
Nikolic, an exchange student from Serbia, won the 500 freestyle in 4:41.27 and defeated defending state champion, Clinton’s Ben Vaughan.
In the final race of the meet, the 400 freestyle relay, Nikolic, Fremont, Michael Ray and Eli Jones captured the state title with a 3:24.27 clocking to edge host Biloxi, which swam a 3:24.33.
Close, but …
A mistake on a turn may have cost Lacy Russell a state record, but not a state championship.
The Tupelo junior, who was shooting to break former teammate Hannah Wilson’s state record of 52.88 in the 100 freestyle, recorded a winning time of 53.67.
“I’m really disappointed,” Russell said. “I missed the wall on my turn … only my toes touched. All my momentum had to come from my kick.
“That maybe added a couple of seconds.”
Russell was excited with her wins in the 100 free and 200 free. She won the 200 in 1:54.39.
“That’s the first time I’ve won two individual events,” she said.
Russell, Bailey Scott, Cris Roberts and Rachel Wilson won the 200 medley relay title in 1:55.54.
Also, Russell, Roberts, Wilson and Scott won the 400 free relay in 3:46.29.
Great Scott
Bailey Scott was gunning for the state record in the 50 freestyle, but she had to settle for a state championship.
That was thrilling enough, said the Tupelo sophomore, who swam a winning time of 24.83, just missing the state mark of 24.59.
“It’s amazing; I’m excited,” said Scott, who was on two state champion relay units last season. “The key for me today was arm rotation … keep moving forward.”
Smith says a fast start helps, too.
“Bailey’s a front-end swimmer,” he said. “She can get out there. The first 25 (yards) did it for her today.”
Contact Gene Phelps at 678-1593
or gene.phelps@djournal.com.