Young Cathedral swimmers not bothered by older foes

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 17, 2000

Anyone who has watched a junior high school football game – too-large helmets bouncing on young heads, pads falling out of too-large pants, fumbles far more common than touchdowns – knows that a junior high team would stand little chance against a varsity high school team.

But young Mississippi swimmers have to grow up fast, said Cathedral swimming coach Tammy Whittington, as prep swimming in the state includes all grades seventh through 12th, in some cases pitting 12-year-olds and 18-year-olds in direct competition.

&uot;It’s like the Cathedral seventh-grade team going up against the varsity team in football,&uot; Whittington said. &uot;But this is a non-contact sport, so they allow it.&uot;

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Which is just fine with seventh-grader Haley Whittington, a diminutive Cathedral swimmer who recently qualified for the state meet to be held Oct. 28 in Biloxi.

Haley said she doesn’t mind swimming against girls older and more experienced than herself.

&uot;It doesn’t matter who I swim against,&uot; she said. &uot;I’m only really competing with my own time.&uot;

With the recent increase in the popularity of swimming, however, achieving low times is becoming more important as qualifying times for the state meet are lowered almost yearly, the elder Whittington said.

&uot;When we first started, there were maybe 250 kids in the state competing,&uot; she said. &uot;Last year it was about 750. A qualifying time is becoming much more difficult to obtain.&uot;

Difficult, but obviously not impossible as Nan White, Johnathan Elliot and Key Smith have all also qualified for the meet in individual events.

Several Cathedral swimmers will attend the meet in relay teams, coach Whittington added, and two swim meets before the state event will give her swimmers two more chances to qualify.