Blue Devils getting ready for south state

Published 7:00 am Friday, October 11, 2019

The Pearl River Central High School swimming team’s final meet of the regular season took place Tuesday against Picayune’s Maroon Tide.

Head Coach Blake Rutherford wanted the meet to have a relaxed atmosphere, and to help with that he let his swimmers choose their events.

“They responded well with that. Some stuck to their guns and swam what they’ll swim at the (south state) meet, and others swam things they’d never swam before,” Rutherford said.

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The swimmers have a little over a week to prepare before the south state meet, which will take place in Laurel, Miss. on Oct. 19.

Rutherford said this week’s practices are going to be intense, and focus on building endurance.

The week before the race the athletes will begin to taper off and make sure they’re rested for the competition.

“They knew for this last week it was essential to come to practice because practices are numbered. Gradually we drop the yardage, the amount of swims we swim and increase the speed,” Rutherford said.

Rutherford has two assistant coaches as well who have proven vital to the team’s success.

Rutherford said Coach Beverly Griffing serves as a buffer zone, and helps him in understanding the best ways to reach the athletes.

“I’ve learned this year that I can’t get upset unless what they’re doing wrong or doing right is directly associated with some sort of life lesson or life skill. Coach Bev is paramount in me recognizing that as a coach,” Rutherford said. Coach Shelly Dill is the other half of the assistant coaching duo, and Rutherford said she provides a stabilizing presence for the athletes and himself.

“When things get tough, Coach Dill fills in the holes for both of us. I am lucky, it’s hard sometimes because communication is hard, but I am lucky to have a team,” Rutherford said.

There have been two swimmers who Rutherford said have stepped forward and embraced leadership roles within the team.

On the girls side is Lauren Coleman, the senior relay captain for the Blue Devils’ squad. Rutherford said Coleman has the selfless attitude and as such does whatever is best for the team.

“Lauren is like the silent leader. If I told her to do something she doesn’t ask how high, she just does it,” Rutherford said.

Anthony Werner leads the boys section of the squad, and Rutherford praised his ability to take charge even when coaches aren’t around.

An example of this leadership was when Werner led the team’s warm ups for the meet with Picayune while the other coaches were busy setting things up.

“He just grabbed them by the horns, and has turned into a leader,” Rutherford said.

Coleman and Werner will lead the athletes into the south state meet, and the Blue Devils swimmers will be competing against 18 other teams. In each event the fastest six are guaranteed spots at the state meet.

The next fastest four then also qualify for state meet, and Rutherford said he’s expecting his team to be competing for the championship come Oct. 19.