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PRC and Picayune swim teams earn top finishes at state meet

Swim teams from Picayune and Pearl River Central competed in the state meet at the Tupelo Aquatic Center last Friday and had multiple swimmers earn podium spots.

PRC

The Blue Devils took 15 swimmers to state and two were able to rise above the competition and take a place on the podium. Amber Bounds came in first place in both of her events, the 200-meter freestyle and the 500-meter freestyle, after two top finishes last year in the 100-meter fly and 500-meter freestyle.

Sophomore Jared Bryson was the Blue Devils’ other podium finisher, coming in third place in both the 100-meter fly and 200-meter freestyle.

Bounds is only a junior, so both winners will be returning next year along with the vast majority of the PRC team.

Head Coach Blake Rutherford said the goal all along has been to build a team capable of competing every year, no matter what talent the team lost to graduation.

Of the 15 athletes who went to state, five were in middle school. Combine that with both medal winners coming back next year, and Rutherford thinks his program is making progress.

“I think we’re on the right track. What really speaks volumes is that a third of the kids who qualified are seventh or eighth graders. We’re building the program right, now the hardest thing is to get them to fall in love with swimming,” Rutherford said.  Zak Kennedy is one of those younger athletes Rutherford hopes will continue to grow the reputation of the team.

The seventh grader came in fourth place and sixth place in the two events he competed in, which means the future is bright for PRC.

Now Rutherford wants his swimmers to start taking the sport seriously and begin swimming year round.

It’s a big commitment, but one that pays dividends.

Considering there is no true offseason for the team since there isn’t a local heated pool, Rutherford is hoping more of his athletes take up club swimming and continue perfecting strokes until the team can meet again next year.

“I have a lot of kids starting to commit to swimming year round. The bulk of our team is right at the turning point that I would think you take that next step and do year round,” Rutherford said.

Picayune

The Maroon Tide also made some noise at the state meet with Kylie Burnette coming in second place in the 100-meter fly, which was Head Coach Rachael Rutherford’s first athlete to reach the podium after taking over the program just two years ago.

The majority of the athletes on the team cut time off their previous records as well, including Ryder Burge who cut a full two seconds off his 100-meter fly and four seconds off his 200-meter IM race.

Rachael Rutherford said her athletes exceeded the expectations she set for the year as the swimmers overcame the obstacles thrown at them by the COVID-19 pandemic to still perform well.

“The fact I got to bring two brand new swimmers to state blew my mind. I just was trying to be moderate with my expectations because of all the outlying factors and they definitely all surpassed those expectations. If I can have, every season, kids that work as hard as they did this year and through all these obstacles, Picayune has nowhere else to go but up,” Rachael Rutherford said.

Like her brother at PRC, Rachael Rutherford is pushing her athletes to take part in year-round swimming in order to continue improving during the high school offseason.

However, there are plans being formulated to maybe do some workouts during the off months to make sure the swimmers are staying in shape even if they aren’t in the pool.

“The (high school swim) season is so short that you have to do outside work, and the only way to work on it is to be in the water. They’ve got to get more water time. I’ve been pushing year round thing because that’s the only way to get better,” Rachael Rutherford said.

The hope is to grow the Maroon Tide program and continue adding new athletes each year.

Rachael Rutherford wants to make sure all of her swimmers are well rounded, and by training them to do each stroke perfectly, the team may be able to grow into the powerhouse she wants it to be.

“A lot of people come into the swim world and they say, ‘This is my stroke. I’m a freestyler,’ but the ones who are successful are the kids who are willing to learn new strokes and become proficient in them. My focus on technique and making sure swimmers can swim all four strokes is what’s helping make us successful,” Rutherford said.