By GENE PHELPS
Lucas Smith’s Tupelo High swim teams – boys and girls – have won a combined 12 state championships since 2005.
The boys won their seventh in that run last season while the girls won their fifth. Smith is making no preseason guarantees about his teams defending their state championships this season.
“This will be a fun team, but we’ve got a lot to learn,” said Smith as he watched his team swim practice laps. “You look for intensity in practice. If you practice fast you can’t help but go fast in a meet.
“We’re not great. We can’t go to a meet, show up and swim something.”
Tupelo opens its season at 4 p.m. today, hosting a six-team meet at City Park pool. The teams entered are Amory, Mississippi School for Math and Science, Ripley, Starkville and TCPS.
On the girls team, junior Cris Roberts returns after winning four individual/relay state titles last season at Delta State University. She won the 100-yard butterfly in 57.31 seconds and the 100-yard backstroke in 1:01.07.
She was also a member of the Lady Wave’s state champion 200-yard medley relay and 400-yard freestyle relay units.
“She’s earned some junior national qualifying times; that’s hard to achieve,” Smith said. “We’re hoping she has a big year.”
Roberts brings the intensity to practice that Smith seeks from all of his swimmers. He calls her “a bulldog” in workouts.
“When we finish a hard set, I feel like I’ve accomplished something,” she said. “I want to better myself and help my team.”
The butterfly stroke is considered the toughest stroke in swimming, which makes it a natural for Roberts.
“You’ve got to have talent, technique and work hard,” Smith said. “You’ve got to train. You don’t just jump in the pool and go fast.”
Roberts is aware of Tupelo’s strong tradition in the sport. She feels the girls team is up for the challenge.
“It’s up to this team to rise to the occasion and keep it going,” she said. “Success is part of our tradition. There’s always pressure.”
Tupelo’s girls and boys teams have plenty of seniors. Smith believes the experience should help the team contend.
“The whole team has to do some really good things,” he said. “I’m not looking for a single swimmer to break out.”