PRC swimming ends season with a trip to the podium

Published 7:00 am Friday, November 1, 2019

The theme of last week’s practices for the PRC swim team was to get to the podium.

Head Coach Blake Rutherford knew his swimmers had the talent and the strength to compete against the best of the best.

On Oct. 26, 16 Blue Devil swimmers traveled to Tupelo, Miss. to put themselves to the test against the best competition they’ve faced.

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For the state meet there are preliminary races in the morning with the top eight from each event advancing to the finals the same night.

Of the 16 athletes Rutherford brought to state, 11 made it to the final set of races.

Rutherford said some of the races were incredibly close, but that didn’t stop his swimmers from rising above the rest.

The Blue Devils’ swimmers took home four championship events.

Senior Luke Jarvis won the 50-yard freestyle in a photo finish.

Senior Anthony Werner won the 500-yard freestyle event and came in second in the 200-yard freestyle.

Sophomore Amber Bounds won both events she competed in, the 110-yard fly and 500-yard freestyle.

The eight other swimmers who made it to the finals at state were freshman Jared Bryson, freshman Shalynn Lee, seventh grader Kaelynn Malley, seventh grader Autumn Craft, senior Lauren Coleman, sophomore Bryson Matthews, senior Jonathan Stockstill and junior Rocky English.

Rutherford said he knew how talented some of his swimmers were individually, but his team’s overall performance at state and throughout the season was a pleasant surprise.

“We were ten times more competitive as a team than I could’ve ever imagined. I did not realize how the bulk of our swimmers would perform and it blew me out of the water,” Rutherford.

Rutherford said that heading into the meet getting on the podium was the first priority, cutting time the second and moving up in seeding was the third priority.

For nearly half of the swimmers it was their first time competing in the state final, but the athletes were able to handle the pressure nonetheless with some help from their experienced teammates.

“I honestly think the half that had some experience really stepped up. We had zero issues with logistics and I commend the veteran swimmers for that,” Rutherford said.

Rutherford, along with his two assistant coaches Beverly Griffing and Shelly Dill, have been training the athletes since the start of the school year.

Each practice was a step towards competing in the state finals and Rutherford said the pressure his athletes felt while training helped prepare them for the state meet’s environment.

“State is what we’ve been training for all year. I feel like I’ve pushed them and they realized how important it was, but also they knew they’ve been given a lot of responsibility in the past,” Rutherford said.

The boys team placed third overall at the meet of 16 schools with 61 points and the girls team placed 7th out of 16 teams with 34 points.

Rutherford said having his team perform so well showed the depth of the squad, so he’s hoping losing eight seniors to graduation this year will be offset by some of the younger swimmers stepping up.

“It’s a huge blow, but that gives me confidence for years to come that we’ve established good depth,” Rutherford said.

Now the athletes will head into the offseason.

The year round swimmers will continue working and some of the athletes will go on to compete in other sports.

Rutherford said he’s hoping this season’s successes have inspired some of the athletes to want to swim year round, or at least pursue summer league swimming.

“If they swim summer league they get more time to get in shape.”

“Of the 26 that are returning it would be awesome to get two or three to join year round. Even that little amount of people to get to join would be awesome,” Rutherford said.