John Servati, a once reluctant 6-year-old swimmer, signed a national letter of intent Wednesday to swim for the University of Alabama.
Servati, who helped lead Tupelo High School to four consecutive state championships, remembers not wanting to take swim lessons as a youngster.
“My mom would take me kicking screaming,” said the 10-time state champion – four individual, six relay unit. “I hated it, but I’m glad I stuck with it.”
Servati set state records in winning the 200-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke Oct. 23 at the MHSAA State Swim Championships in Biloxi. He also helped the Golden Wave set state records and win state titles in the 200 medley and 200 freestyle relays.
In 2009, he won the 100 backstroke and 100 freestyle at state, along with being part of the winning 200 medley relay.
He was on state champion relay units in 2008 – 200 medley and 400 free – and in 2007 – 200 free. He finished second his freshman year in the 100 back.
“My seventh grade year, I anchored our 400 free relay in the North half meet,” he recalled. “I got beat on the touch. I told my coach, ‘It will never happen again.’’’
Servati’s coach, Lucas Smith, said nobody outworks his star.
“He likes to be pushed in a workout,” Smith said. “He likes to go fast in practice. When you go fast in practice, you go fast in a meet.
“He’s got so much talent.”
Servati selected Alabama over Kentucky, Florida State and Louisville.
“I came down between Alabama and Florida State. I liked both,” he said. “I felt more at home on the Alabama campus. I had a gut feeling.”
Smith said Servati will likely swim the 100 and 200 backstroke and 100 and 200 freestyle in college.
“Swimming is something I love to do,” Servati said.
That wasn’t always the case.
Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal