Picayune swim taking six athletes to state

Published 7:00 am Thursday, October 24, 2019

Because this is Head Coach Rachael Rutherford’s first year at the helm of the Maroon Tide swimming program, at the start of the year it seemed like the focus would be on rebuilding the team.

But Rutherford and her squad have outperformed expectations, and are now sending six athletes to the state meet.

On Oct. 19 the Maroon Tide swimmers competed in the South State Meet against 18 other teams from all over southern Mississippi.

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The meet took place at the Laurel Natatorium in Laurel, Miss., and it was one of the largest venues the team has competed in all season.

Heading into the meet Rutherford wasn’t sure how her team was going to handle the environment.

“I was nervous going in, they’d been acting like they were just done with swim. I was the most nervous I’d been at a meet, but they really stepped it up,” Rutherford said.

The six athletes heading to state are Kylie Burnette in the 200-yard individual medley and 100-yard freestyle, Ryder Burge in the 500-yard freestyle and 100-yard fly, Lauren Stevenson in the 100-yard breaststroke and 50-yard freestyle, Lily Ginn in the 200-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke, with Riley Mckenzie and Heidi Hill taking part in relays.

Considering the environment and type of meet the athletes were competing in, stress and anxiety presented them with obstacles.

However, Rutherford said her swimmers did a good job of handling the adversity.

“Some of them were obviously stressed, but I just told them as long as you feel like you’ve done your best I’ll be proud of you,” Rutherford said.

A big source of support for the swimmers heading into the meet was the community.

Rutherford said swimming has been a big part of the Picayune community for years, and so the night before the meet she posted on the team’s Facebook page and her personal page to ask the community to drop some motivational comments.

Then, on the day of the meet, Rutherford shared the comments with her swimmers.

“I read all the comments and messages the community had sent out. They were prepared, you got this far, get in the pool and do what you know how to do,” Rutherford said.

Now the athletes will be training for the state meet that will take place in Tupelo, Miss.

As the swimmers prepare to compete against the best in the state, Rutherford has changed up the practices so the swimmers can focus on their individual strokes.

Pacing for the long distance swimmers and perfecting flip turns have been just two of the things the swimmers have been working on. Conditioning is another aspect Rutherford is having her swimmers improve upon. Swimming as a sport is unique because a swimmer will be asked to give all their effort for one race, and then turn around 30 minutes later and do it again.

To help with that aspect of the sport, Rutherford has increased the intensity of her practices.

“When you get put in that moment you give everything and that’s great until you have to turn around in an hour and do it again. They’re going to feel tired, but they have to have energy and make sure they focus in,” Rutherford said.

For the state meet there will be prelims and finals, meaning the swimmers will have to compete twice in a single day. In the morning the athletes will compete in their specific events, with the top eight from each event advancing to the finals that night. The athletes will keep preparing for the state meet, which will take place Oct. 26, and Rutherford is hoping a couple more make it to the finals.