SPORTS HEADLINES

Swimming: Swimmers gear up for District 6-5A meet

By David Talley | Published Saturday, January 21, 2017
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All Hands on Deck

ALL HANDS ON DECK – Seven Decatur swimmers Allie Blevins, Lizey Rowden, Bleu Davis, Ethan Miles, Milly Rowden, Claire Mallory and Jennifer Morehart gear up at practice Tuesday for the district meet. The full team enters the contest as medal favorites in multiple events. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

When Brooklyn Huffman took the Decatur swim head coaching job, freshmen Allie Blevins and Ethan Miles were among her first class of swimmers.

Four years later, Blevins, Miles and five others now make up the team’s senior class – a group of high-performing team leaders Huffman counts on to set an example for younger members of the program.

With the District 6-5A meet looming, Huffman reflected on the two and how far they’ve come.

“I’ve had Allie all four years,” she said, “so I’m pretty sad to see her go, but she sure has grown a lot as a swimmer. She came in and loved distance swimming, but she’s become well-rounded and she’s able to go out and swim anything.

“Her sprint was one of those things. She was able to pull 26 [seconds] in her relay splits and under the minute mark in her 400 relay,” Huffman said. “She’s a pretty dominant piece of those relays.”

Huffman said she talked with Blevins about the events before the meet, and the two ultimately decided to keep her in the 200 freestyle, despite Blevins excelling at other events this year.

“We even chatted last week,” Huffman said. “She said, ‘Oh, I’m so tired of swimming the 200 [freestyle], and I played around with maybe sticking her in something else. But we decided to stick with that event … She hasn’t done her best time in the 200 freestyle this year, but I think it’s because we spent so much of the year focusing on other things for her.”

Blevins netted third in the event at the 5A Region II meet last year. New for the 2017 regional meet, the top two (rather than just the first-place swimmer) in each event will qualify for the state meet. Huffman said that change could help the team down the road, especially in the girls 200 and 400 freestyle relay events, which are ranked among the top three or four in the region.

“They have a really good chance,” she said. “We’re all within hundredths of seconds of the other big teams, so if the girls come out and swim their splits like they have earlier in the season, when they swam some 26s all around the clock, we’re in good shape.

“If we can get Lizzie swimming her [50-yard 200 freestyle relay split at] 25 seconds. That would be an ideal time for us,” she said.

Blevins enters both the girls 500-yard freestyle and the 200-yard freestyle events seeded second. She’ll also lead the girls 400-yard relay event and the first-ranked girls 400-yard relay, teaming with Jennifer Morehart and Milly and Elizabeth Rowden.

Miles steps up, one last time

The summer before his senior year, Ethan Miles took time off to reflect on his time in the sport and what he plans to do in the world outside of flip turns and diving blocks.

“I wanted to take the summer off because I’ve never really taken a summer off, and I wanted to think about my priorities,” Miles said. “Like what I wanted to do school-wise, like if I wanted to do a different activity or a different sport. I was thinking about it and I realized I’ve dedicated half my life to this sport, what’s another year? At the end of summer I came back and was ready to pump everybody up and get going.”

As the team’s co-captain, pumping up others is a role Miles takes seriously.

“Even though swimming is an individual sport, it’s important to have that team support. It’s more of leading by example,” he said. “I’m loud when I need to be, but I’m not excessively going around the pool screaming my head off the entire time. I can kind of tell when someone’s feeling down, and I’ll try to cheer them up.”

Huffman said Miles’ part as team leader is crucial.

“He’s come back with probably the best attitude I’ve seen him have this year for his senior year and shown more leadership to me as a senior than any of the other years,” she said. “He really helps lead his teammates and encourages them.”

Miles enters the district meet seeded first in the boys 50-yard freestyle and the boys 100-yard backstroke. His time in the backstroke is a nearly five seconds faster than the second-seeded swimmer, Northwest’s Nathan Waugh. He’ll team with Zacharie Levesque, Caleb Black and Sam Bowker to anchor the boys 200-yard freestyle relay and lead the 200-yard medley relay. The Eagles enter the meet seeded second in both events.

Decatur’s other top-ranked swimmers and relays include Madelyn McCloud, who will start the girls 200-yard IM seeded first and Levesque, who is seeded third in the boys 200-yard IM. The girls 200-yard IM relay of M. Rowden, Morehart, Claire Mallory and Bleu Davis come into the event ranked first.

E. Rowden and Davis will both line up for the girls 50-yard freestyle seeded first and second. M. Rowden and Mallory are ranked first and second in the 100-yard butterfly. Payten Tynsky is seeded fifth. E. Rowden starts the 100-yard freestyle ranked first by more than a second.

Levesque and Bowker head into the boys 100-yard freestyle seeded fifth and sixth. M. Rowden starts the girls 100-yard backstroke ranked first by more than three seconds. Tynsky and Caraline Cowdrey enter fourth and fifth.

Morehart and Davis start the girls 100-yard breaststroke with the third and fourth best times. Bowker starts the 100-yard breaststroke seeded fourth.

Practice Perfect

PRACTICE PERFECT – A Decatur swimmer takes a lap in the team’s new practice facility in the weeks before the district meet. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

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