By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
Tupelo coach Lucas Smith believes the new format for Saturday’s MHSAA Swim Championships will showcase the sport.
“It’s like the Olympics,” he said. “They’re going to call the top eight out and introduce them on the blocks. It will be awesome.”
The meet at Delta State University’s Aquatics Center in Cleveland will feature morning preliminaries and afternoon finals in two classifications for the first time – Class II (5A-6A) and Class I (1A-4A).
Tupelo’s boys and Oxford’s girls, both competing in Class II, are the defending overall state champions.
This season, Tupelo and Madison Central are the favorites in the boys competition while Oxford and Tupelo will be the top contenders in girls.
“I like this format better,” Smith said. “The main difference is you’ll have to swim twice if you qualify in the preliminaries. That’s OK, it will give you the chance to swim an even better time in the finals.”
Under the old format, the winners were determined by the best time from multiple heats.
Delta State’s pool is set up for fast times, Smith says.
“You’ve got to step up your game,” he said. “Everything in there is set up – the gutter system, the blocks – for fast times. Everybody who walks in there wants to swim well.”
On the girls side, Tupelo’s Lacy Russell and Bailey Scott won two events each at the North state meet two weeks ago in Jackson.
Russell captured the 100-yard and 200 freestyle while Scott won the 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke.
In the boys competition, Tupelo’s Colton Fremont won the 100 butterfly and the 200 individual medley.
Other Northeast Mississippi swimmers who won North state titles in Class II were: Rick Deaton, Tupelo, 50 free; Andrew Mullen, Oxford, 200 free; Cris Roberts, Tupelo 100 butterfly; Eli Jones, Tupelo, 100 backstroke; Laken Vickers, Starkville, 100 breast; Cheng Ye, Starkville, 100 breast.
In Class I, Ripley’s Rachel Dees won the North 100 butterfly and the 100 breast.
Tupelo’s boys and girls relay teams in the 200 freestyle and 200 medley also won North championships.