TUPELO – Successful, but feeling somewhat burned out, then 14-year-old Hannah Wilson seriously considered giving up swimming.
“My eighth-grade year was terrible,” said Wilson, now a senior on Tupelo High School’s swim team. “I was sick a lot. My times were terrible on the short course and long course. I didn’t reach my goals.
“I wanted to let it go.”
At the time, Wilson had already won six of her current 14 individual/relay high school state championships, and had captured bundles of first-place state, regional and national ribbons competing for the Tupelo-based Shockwave Aquatics team since age 6.
“It was just a point in my career when I thought about quitting,” she said, during a break from practice at City Park pool.
Her coach, Lucas Smith, remembers Wilson’s rough eighth-grade season.
“Every athlete gets to a point when they ask, ‘How good do I want to be,’ ” he said. “It’s something she had to push through. She was able to do it.
“A lot of the girls who were top swimmers her age are no longer swimming. She’s had her ups and downs in swimming, and it’s made her what she is. She knows what it’s like to get beat. She knows what it takes to get to where she wants to be.”
Hard work pays off
Wilson’s glad she decided to remain in the water.
“My freshman year, I got out of that little valley,” she said. “It started to all pay off my junior year. I started training harder and was more committed.”
Smith, a former swimmer and longtime coach, said his talented pupil is the state’s best swimmer, “hands down.” He adds, “She’s one of the top swimmers to come through Mississippi, and we’ve had some good ones.”
Wilson’s first goal this season is to win a fourth team state championship. Tupelo’s last state title came in 2006, her freshman year.
“I’d like to have another (championship) ring,” she said, then smiled. “I’ve been looking forward to this, my senior year, since my freshman year. It’s going to be close. I’m excited.”
Tupelo’s main competition for the state title will be two-time defending state champion Oxford.
Finish up strong
The Lady Wave’s chances of success will increase if Wilson can win four individual/relay titles in the Oct. 24 state meet in Biloxi.
Wilson believes her strongest events are the 100- and 200-yard freestyle. However, Smith says her 200-yard butterfly “has exploded” since last season.
“She’s knocked four or five seconds off her time; that’s great,” he said. “She’s also strong in the 50 freestyle and in the relays.
“She’s a weapon.”
Her other goal is to earn a college swimming scholarship at an NCAA Division I school.
“I’d like to sign Nov. 18, the early signing day,” she said. “If it doesn’t happen, I’ll wait until spring.”
She plans to visit Florida State and New Mexico State this fall.
“Wherever she goes to college, they’ll be lucky to get her,” Smith said. “She’s a great leader. When she hits the water, she trains hard. She’s a workhorse.”
One who has no immediate plans to retire.
Contact Gene Phelps at 678-1593 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal