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PRC swimmer taking talents to college

Anthony Werner didn’t know what path competitive swimming would take him.

It started normally enough with lessons, but then grew into a passion as Werner joined multiple teams to hone his craft.

Werner competed in the state championships this year and came in first place in the 500-yard freestyle while competing as part of the Pearl River Central swim team.

Performances like that showed his talent and endurance, traits that earned him the opportunity to sign a swimming scholarship with Millsaps College Tuesday.

Werner said his journey has led him to this point because the teams kept building on each other.

Skills he learned from his year-round program would translate to his competitions with the high school team and vice versa.

For younger athletes trying to swim at the next level, he has a word of advice.

“Definitely start with a summer league. From there talk to your coaches and they will guide you in the direction you need to go,” Werner said.

Head Coach Blake Rutherford said this might have been the first time in PRC’s history that a swimmer signed an actual scholarship.

It’s a momentous occasion for Werner, but also for the program itself.

Now younger athletes know they too can swim at the next level if they put in the necessary work.

Rutherford said Werner signing could be the start of something special for the PRC swimming program.

“I think this is the beginning of a culture change. The (athletes) see somebody who put in the work (and) be committed,”

Rutherford said there are some other athletes coming through the pipeline he thinks have the potential to sign in the coming years, in part thanks to the foundation Werner and the other swimmers have laid.

Now the transition for Rutherford will begin from coach to supporter as Werner sets off to pursue his dreams of competing at the next level.

“I’m excited to be a fan now and be more of a friend. My job was to try to make him love swimming,” Rutherford said.

Fellow athletes, friends and family showed their support for Werner as his dreams became a reality with the stroke of a pen.

The celebration was deserved, but Werner said a weight has been lifted from his shoulders now that the signing is done.

“It’s a really big relief to sign (because of) the whole transition from high school to college. It’s nice to just kick back and relax,” Werner said.

Werner may have been the first PRC swimmer to sign for a college scholarship.

However, if Rutherford, along with his assistant coaches Beverley Griffing and Shelly Dill, have anything to say about it there will be more who follow in Werner’s footsteps.