By Cathy Wood
Special to the Journal
TUPELO – Swimmers and their families at the Mississippi Swimming Inc. Long Course Swim Meet, this weekend at the Tupelo Aquatic Center, praised the new facility and the host city.
From the pool’s technical details to Tupelo’s restaurants and hotels, there’s something for everyone as swimmers from almost 20 teams have been in town for the four-day state championship.
“This outclasses 99 percent of the pools I’ve been to,” said meet referee Kerry Stewart, whose son swims for the YMCA Hub Fins out of Hattiesburg. “The tank (pool) compares to the best in the nation. The top USA Swimming team, SwimMAC Carolina, doesn’t have anything like this.”
Swimmers competing at the center appreciate its wide lanes, non-turbulent lane ropes and state-of-the-art starting blocks and timing system, he said.
“Those things make swimmers feel faster. And this pool is very safe. USA Swimming wants competitors to be in a secure space, and here there’s an area roped off for them that nobody except certified coaches or referees or parents who are timing can access,” he added.
Other safety features include a concrete floor – less slippery than tile – and wide deck space.
Family members traveling with swimmers, such as Sherra Shearer and Linda Bonner, of Jackson’s Sunkist Swim Team, were delighted the meet was in Tupelo.
“The facility is great and I love the city,” said Bonner.
“I’ve got four hungry teenage boy swimmers I’m looking after, so I appreciate all the places to eat,” Shearer said, laughing.
She also was touched by the community’s support.
“Fire fighters and other people come to time at night so that parents, who usually are the timers, can enjoy watching their children in the championship races,” she said. “That means a lot.”
The facility, which opened in December, hosted the state short course meet in February.
Swimmers Nicholas Derrick, 8, of Sunkist, and Jaylyn Anderson, 12, and Myly McGee, 10, of the Mississippi Makos from Jackson, were happy to be in Tupelo – Derrick liked the starting blocks, McGee was impressed with the whole aquatic center and Anderson, an Elvis fan, was thrilled to visit Presley’s birthplace.
Even vendors were complimentary.
“This is a fantastic facility, with a great retail space,” said Dustin Hubbard, with All American Swim Supply, based in Florence, Ala. “They worked for a long time to get this open, and the design is amazing. There’s so much going on in Tupelo, and we’re happy to come here. Mississippi always supports us and makes us feel welcome.”
The meet concludes today.