The Elizabethton Cyclone swim team makes ready for the regional at Tennessee High on Saturday, with an eye on some individual marks and school records, not to mention the possibility of trips to the state tournament.
First year head coach Justin Conway is excited about the possibilities for some of his young swimmers in the preliminary on Saturday morning.
“The preliminaries are extremely important,” Conway said. “It decides their placement for the final. A few seconds difference is vital and decides what lane you compete in.
“The lanes you swim in make a difference with the way the water works inside the pool. If you get a middle lane, they are faster, and if you get an outside lane you have to deal with brackish water that hits against the side. So you are fighting the water more than in the middle.”
The Cyclones most recent meet saw them compete in the ‘Little-6’ meet in which the smallest schools in the conference / region meet. EHS swam against Sullivan Central, Sullivan East, as well as Greeneville and produced a second place finish in the boys’ bracket.
Junior Scout Walz has already qualified for a spot at the state meet in the 500 meter freestyle and will be looking to get there in the 100 backstroke and butterfly with a good regional showing.
“Many swimmers that win at the state tournament have times of under five minutes in the 500 freestyle event,” Conway said. “Right now Scout is at five minutes and six seconds, and it’s his ultimate goal to get to under five minutes. He also has great ability in the backstroke and has a considerable chance to win that event at the regional meet.”
Junior Chris Lanthorn is another Cyclone with a chance to make it to the state with a solid showing on Saturday. Lanthorn competes in the 50 meter freestyle and the 100 meter butterfly events and hopes to join Walz in Murfreesboro.
“I have worked really hard with coaches help,” said Lanthorn. “I feel like I’m really close to my times, and I have been really focusing on this event and try my best to get the time I need.
“Confidence in myself is the biggest key. You can’t do it if you don’t believe.”
Two other boys on the bubble and looking for strong preliminary showings are John Smith (50m freestyle) and Anthony Huber (50m freestyle). Both are very close to marks that would put them in the running for a state bid, with Smith’s best time of 25.73 and Huber at 26.5. Both are looking at a mark of 24 seconds or better to claim a spot.
On the ladies side is Chelsea Taylor (50m freestyle) and freshman Kelsi McKamey (100m butterfly).
“All three in the 50 meter freestyle are very close,” Conway explained. “If they record state qualifying times they will have roughly three weeks to prepare for that. All of our swimmers have worked very hard this year.
“For me, my first year has been quite a transition, with a lot of anticipation and of the unknown. But these kids and their parents have made the transition period very enjoyable. I feel very honored to coach this group.”
McKamey is hoping for a trip to the state meet in her freshman year and needs to shave less than three seconds off her best time to qualify. She has a 1:12 best and needs to break 1:09 to get there.
“I feel stronger at the 100 fly than anything else,” McKamey said. “Coach is always yelling at me to kick, because I always seem to forget to kick when I get within 25 yards of the finish.
“It takes time for me to process in my head, but I have worked with Scout on that and it’s getting better. Competing at a regional gets my competiveness flowing because of the level of competition. We’ll be swimming against big schools like Science Hill and I always like trying to beat Science Hill. It gets me fired up.”
All members of the Cyclone swim team, as well as many others will print the initials of 16-year old Austin Arnold on their bodies or swimsuits. Arnold was a Tennessee High swimmer who was killed in a car accident last Friday.
The regional meet is set for Saturday morning at 10 am and will be held at the Viking Hall pool in Bristol.