By Gene Phelps
Rachel Dees, who once dreamed of being an Olympic swimmer, will happily settle for being a dermatologist when she finally exits the pool.
Dees, a senior at Ripley High School, wraps up a long swimming career – she started at age 7 – this year and turns her focus to college and a medical career.
There was a time, not long ago, when she considered swimming in college.
“I thought about this long and hard,” she said. “I’ve decided not to swim in college. Pre-med will take up all my time.
“It was a hard decision to give up swimming.”
Dees swims as part of a two-person RHS team. Prior to freshman Drew Sullivan joining her, she was a one-person team. Both swimmers train daily with Tupelo High’s team.
“They are nice enough to let me practice with them,” Dees said, then smiled.
Tupelo coach Lucas Smith is happy to have her in the pool with his younger swimmers. “She’s good with the butterfly and breaststroke and is a good little sprinter,” he said. “I like her work ethic. She never misses a practice.”
‘out with a bang’
Dees finished second in the 100-yard breaststroke and third in the 100-yard butterfly at last season’s high school state meet. She would like to win state titles this year in the 100-yard breast and 50-yard freestyle.
“I want to go out with a bang,” she said.
When she was a lot younger, Dees was ranked as one of the nation’s top swimmers in the breaststroke. That all changed as she got older.
“I was bigger than everybody else when I was younger,” she said. “When I was 12 or 13, I stopped growing. I got to a point where I didn’t get any better, but I didn’t get any worse. I hit a wall. A lot of swimmers go through that.”
Dees thought about ending her swim career following the Oct. 26 MHSAA state meet at Delta State, but she decided to hang around long enough to practice and compete with the Shockwave swim team in Tupelo’s new aquatics center.
“I wanted to swim in the new pool,” she said. “The short course season ends in February and that’s it.”