By Gene Phelps
Tupelo High School’s state championship swim program – 21 since 1999 – finally has a title-worthy facility to train in.
The Golden Wave girls and boys teams are practicing this season in the new Tupelo Aquatic Center, which will be the host site for this year’s MHSAA State Swimming Championships.
“This is so much better,” said Tupelo coach Lucas Smith, whose team trained since 1996 in an outdoor pool at Rob Leake City Park. “We haven’t missed a practice because of thunderstorms. There were times in previous years when we would miss because of cold weather, a broken (pool) heater.
“When you’re inside, the conditions remain the same. We’ve been able to get some good workouts in.”
Last year’s three-time state champion swimmer, Cris Roberts, says there are “no limits” to what she and her teammates can accomplish with a new facility.
“The only limits we’ll have are the ones we set for ourselves,” said Roberts, who set Class II records in the 100-yard butterfly and 100-yard backstroke during last year’s state meet at Delta State. “This facility is amazing. There are so many things we can do now that we haven’t been able to do.”
Roberts, who is being recruited in swimming by the Naval Academy, Brown, TCU and others, was a member of last season’s state champion 200-yard medley relay unit with Mattie Hughes, Chelsie Gray and Lauren Bean.
Smith’s not sure what events Roberts will swim this season.
“She’ll do whatever we need her to do,” he said. “She’s team first, Cris second. Her strengths are the fly and the back. She’s also good in the IM (individual medley). She’s coming off a really strong summer.”
Tupelo’s girls have won three consecutive state titles while the boys have won seven straight.
“We’re looking to see who’s going to step up on the boys team,” Smith said. “We’re filling the gaps with some young and inexperienced swimmers.”