Rachel Dees recently named one of state’s top swimmers

RIPLEY–Rachel Dees has big dreams–really big dreams. A 7th grader at Ripley Middle School, Dees hopes to one day represent the United States in the Olympics. That’s a lofty goal, but not too lofty, considering the fact that Dees was named the best 11-12 swimmer in the state of Mississippi in 2008. Dees received the award last November at the state swim banquet held in Jackson. amp”My goal is to reach higher levels of competition, like Junior Nationals, and I would love to go to the Olympics,amp” said Dees, who began swimming at the age of 6. amp”That would mean the world to me.amp” Dees, now 13, started swimming on a hunch by her mother Melinda, who noticed how her daughter took to the water at six months old. Said Dees’ mother: amp”I took her to the pool every day when she was six months old, and she was different, like a natural, like something she was born with. She was just getting around in the water so much different than all the other kids.amp” The hunch paid off, as Dees is now in her seventh year of competitive swimming. Dees began her career in Ripley, but because of her natural ability in the water, her local coach suggested that she swim with a team that would offer her more exposure. Dees then joined her current team, the Tupelo Shockwave Aquatics Team. amp”The first day we went to Tupelo, a coach said ‘I don’t know if you know the kind of talent God has blessed your daughter with’,amp” her mother added. Since joining the Shockwave, Dees has steadily risen through the ranks to become one of the top swimmers on the team. In 2006, as a 10 and under swimmer, Dees’ time of 40.07 in the 100-meter breaststroke was the 8th best time in the nation. Her award-winning year of 2008 began during the short course season, which started in September 2007 and ran through February 2008. Dees won the amp”high point,amp” or finished with the most points, in the Makoes Invitational in Jackson, the Thanksgiving Invitational in Germantown, Tenn., the Tupelo Rock-N-Roll Invitational and the Delta Duck Invitational in Cleveland. During the 2008 state short course swim meet, her first-place finishes helped capture a state title for the Shockwave, the fifth such title for the team. Following the state meet, Dees qualified for a sectional swim meet in Charlotte, N.C., one of the largest in the country for swimmers age 14 and under. Dees took the third-place medal in the 50-meter breaststroke. amp”Getting up on that podium and putting that medal around my neck made me forget about all the miles I had to swim to get it,amp” added Dees. Dees said she trains by swimming several miles every day. She begins every morning at the Wellness Center. The mile-and-a-half session lasts 45 minutes and Dees usually starts at 5:15 a.m. In the afternoon, Dees travels to Tupelo to practice with her team. Following the short course season, in April, Dees went into the long course season where her stellar year continued to get better. Dees returned to Jackson for another first-place finish at the Makoes Invitational followed by four more swim meet victories, including a long course state title for the Shockwave. Dees has been a part of four long course titles. Over the summer, Dees was selected to race at the Southeastern Zone Meet in Atlanta. The meet featured the best swimmers from Alabama, Tennessee Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Kentucky, Virginia, and Georgia. amp”That was the most fun I’ve ever had in my life,amp” added Dees. amp”I loved it. That was amazing to me. I just wanted to get up there and win a medal. I was one of the only girls to make it back to finals. There were a bunch of people from every state in the southeast.amp” Dees was one of 38 swimmers from Mississippi to qualify for the week-long event held at Georgia Tech University. The event was held at the same pool used during the 1996 Olympics. Dees was one of only two Mississippi swimmers that made it back to the finals, finishing fifth in the 50 and 100-meter breast stroke. In February of this year, Dees helped the Shockwave win their third consecutive short course title. She was part of a 200 meter freestyle relay team that broke a record that had stood since 1981. An appearance in the Olympics is a long way off, but Dees has the ability and the attitude to make it happen. One thing that isn’t that far away is college, and Dees already has her eye on one school in particular, stating, amp”My dream is to go to Auburn because they’ve got the best swim team.amp” Rachel Dees is the daughter of Michael and Melinda Dees of Ripley.

Kedrick Storey