By Matt Hill
The Elizabethton swim team finished off a breakout season last week with two state-meet qualifiers competing in Nashville.
Scout Walz and Kelsi McKamey both qualified and participated, and it was a great experience for both.
Walz just missed qualifying for finals in the 500 freestyle and 100 butterfly while McKamey competed in the girls 100 butterfly.
Walz was coming off Elizabethton’s first two region titles in quite sometime.
“I am so proud of both of them,” Elizabethton head swim coach Justin Conway said. “I’m proud of Scout for not settling and continuing to work hard every day. When you get to a certain point as a swimmer where you’re making state cut in several events and you’re winning races, it’s easy to settle and to not work hard because you’re most likely going to win or succeed — but for Scout to get in the pool every day with his mission being to work as hard as he can to get better, that just goes to show at almost every swim meet he kept cutting time. He kept getting faster.”
McKamey also plays volleyball for EHS, but she has rallied strong from a slow start after being involved in the fall sport while the swim team was practicing.
“For her to come in and do what she has done this season has been nothing short of phenomenal,” Conway said of the freshman. “She has taken down one of the oldest school records at our school, she is one of the first swimmers in a long time to be able to go to state in the 100 butterfly and she has such a bright future ahead of her. I’m proud of what she’s done this year, but I’m even more excited about what she’s going to do in the coming years.”
For McKamey, the experience of going to state as freshman was a thrill for her.
“It was a pretty good feeling when I qualified,” McKamey said. “It felt really good when I made it. It was a fun experience.”
McKamey had a lot of strong swimmers to face in the 100 butterfly, but she has learned so much from Coach Conway and from the experience of being competitive.
“The girl who was the top seed swam the butterfly in 44 seconds and she’s really good, but she was in heat eight and I was in heat two and we swam around a 109.2, and I came in second — so it wasn’t that bad.
“Swimming is my passion and that’s what I like to do. I play volleyball, but I don’t excel in it nearly as much as I do swimming.”
McKamey has big goals for next season.
“I want to get my butterfly time down to 1:05 at least for next year’s state, and I want to swim the 200 (individual medley) next year because I need to work on my breaststroke.”
Walz is now maybe the most decorated swimmer at Elizabethton High School with one more year to go. Though he barely missed finals, look for that to change next season.
“I had some good swims and some good lifetime bests, and it was even better this year because I had a good coach and a good team there to support me,” he said.
“Everyone there has at least made the cut for state, which is a big deal for a lot of swimmers — so you know they are going to be on your level. I want to place in finals next year, which is the top 16. I average about a 30-second time drop each year and some of the best people swim in the 4:20 or 4:30 range — so if I can keep that up I’ll be there with the big dogs.”
Walz says this year has been a dream come true, especially winning the region titles and forming a strong bond with Coach Conway.
“It’s been awhile since we’ve taken gold at conference,” Walz said. “Justin is the best coach Elizabethton has had in a long time and he’s the best we could have gotten this year. “He still has important things to teach us.”
The EHS swim team is a total team, and Conway is very proud of everyone on the team and the young men and women they are in every aspect of their life.
“This is one of the strongest groups of kids physically, mentally and spiritually I have ever met,” Conway said. “They work hard, the have fun together and they care about each other. We’re just so excited to see how this team is going to grow over the next few years and however long I’m privileged to be the swim coach. We want to get the community involved and have more youth be interested in the swim team, but I am so proud of them.”