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Members of the Cathedral High School swim team takes a breather between laps during practice at the Natchez Senior Center Tuesday. The team will compete in the South State tournament Saturday in Laurel. (Justin Sellers \ The Natchez Democrat)
Members of the Cathedral High School swim team takes a breather between laps during practice at the Natchez Senior Center Tuesday. The team will compete in the South State tournament Saturday in Laurel. (Justin Sellers \ The Natchez Democrat)

Archived Story

Cathedral athletes enjoy competing for school’s swim team

Published 12:04am Wednesday, October 16, 2013

NATCHEZ — Perhaps taking a cue from Cathedral High School’s “Green Wave” nickname, junior Silas Whitaker decided to make a splash this fall.

Usually, Whitaker would be lining up on Friday nights for the Cathedral football team, but Whitaker said he wanted to focus on academics his 11th-grade year. He chose a sport that would give him more time to study but would still allow him to indulge his competitive side — swimming.

Now, Whitaker is one of seven athletes for the school’s swim team that will compete in the MHSAA Classes 1-4A meet this weekend in Laurel.

“Swimming takes up a lot less time, but I’m still staying active,” Whitaker said.

Cathedral High School swimmer Annie Russ swims the freestyle during practice at the Natchez Senior Center Tuesday. (Justin Sellers \ The Natchez Democrat)
Cathedral High School swimmer Annie Russ swims the freestyle during practice at the Natchez Senior Center Tuesday. (Justin Sellers \ The Natchez Democrat)

Whitaker will compete in the 50-yard freestyle event this weekend at South State. Though he said swimming was difficult to pick up at first, the sport has gotten easier the more he’s done it.

“I’ve gotten pretty good at freestyle,” Whitaker said. “The other stuff is kind of shaky, but I can do it.”

Tammy Whittington, Cathedral’s swim coach, said she’s enjoyed coaching Whitaker in his rookie season of being a swimmer.

“Silas has never swam (competitively) before,” Whittington said. “To be new and qualify for South State is awesome.”

Whitaker also said he’s excited to compete in the state semifinal round in his first year.

“It’s good and surprising for me, because I didn’t think I’d be very good at it in my first year,” Whitaker said.

Eighth grader Annie Russ, has a bit of a head start on Whitaker as far as her development goes. She said she’s been swimming since fifth or sixth grade after picking it over every other sport she tried when she was younger.

“I’ve just always enjoyed it — I don’t really know why,” Russ said.

One of the reasons, though, is because she enjoys learning from Whittington.

“She works with us all the time, and she’s funny and nice,” Russ said. “I’ve learned to be more of a competitive swimmer (under her), and I know how to do my strokes right.”

While she enjoys the sport, Russ warned that it’s not an easy one to pick up right away.

“I would say it’s difficult if you haven’t been swimming for a long time,” Russ said. “It’s a hard sport, but it’s very good exercise.”

In addition to Russ and Whitaker, Anna Peyton Whittington, Mary Kate Huber, Emma Homan, Mallory Dickey and Adrianna Rojo will also compete in South State this weekend for Cathedral.

“We already had a few make state qualifying times, but you have to do it at South State,” Tammy Whittington explained.

Part of being a coach is trying to strategize for the South State meet, since she can’t just plug her best swimmers into every single competition, Whittington said.

“You can only swim two events and two relays, so that makes for some strategy involvement,” Whittington said. “Mallory qualified for everything she competes in, so we have to pick and choose which events she’ll do.”

Her team, which totaled 12 swimmers this season, has been fun to coach, Whittington said, and she’s glad to see young people involved with a sport that’s lesser-known locally.

“It’s a great sport because everyone always has room for improvement,” she said. “That’s what we stress. Also, I’m almost 57, and I can go jump in the pool and swim laps. I couldn’t go run around and play softball and soccer. It’s still a low-impact sport that’s great for the heart, lungs and body. It’s a lifelong sport.”

Whitaker said he’s glad he decided to give swimming a try.

“It’s a fun sport,” he said. “It’s not too serious, but it’s still good exercise, and I’ve always loved to swim.”