Sikeston swim team qualifies nine for Tennessee meet
SIKESTON -- The Sikeston Sharks have qualified nine swimmers to compete in the Junior Olympics, held Aug. 5-9 at the University of Tennessee Aquatics Center in Knoxville, Tenn.
"It is quite an experience," said Sikeston meet manager Mike Nelson. "These kids will line up and see somebody from Saudi Arabia on one side, then somebody from Texas, Florida or California on the other. The kids are scared at first, but then eventually they realize they can compete. There will be in the neighborhood of probably 12,000 kids there in all the different events."
Sikeston qualifiers are Josh Atchley, Mark Fraser, Morgan Fraser, Gabrielle Greer, Ben F. Marshall, Lauren Medley, Victoria Moy, Megan Nelson and Jake Pewitt.
"I'm very, very proud of these kids, especially the ones who qualified," said Sikeston head coach Heather Dockins. "They work really hard in practice and they have set an example for the younger kids."
Ben F. Marshall leads the field, having qualified in 10 different races. That's a low number for him, considering he has qualified for as many as 13 in the past.
"This hasn't been my best year," said Marshall. "I've been taking it easy, getting ready for college. Still, that's not bad for not being in shape."
In the boys 15-18 division, Marshall will compete in the 50 freestyle, 100 free, 200 free, 400 free, 100 breaststroke, 200 breast, 100 backstroke, 200 back, 100 butterfly and 200 individual medley.
"(Knoxville) is where I started, and it is where I will be ending," said Marshall. "Since this is my last year, I hope to do really well. Swimmers that practice year-round have an advantage on me, but hopefully I can bring home quite a few golds."
Marshall has attended 11 Junior Olympic events in his swimming career.
"I believe he's going to have the best opportunity," said Nelson. "He knows what it takes to win. He's going to be tough."
Megan Nelson qualified in five races this year. After 15 years on the team, Nelson is hoping to end her outstanding swimming career on a high note. It is her eighth trip to the Junior Olympics.
"I'm pretty optimistic," she said. "It's my last year, so I'm going to give it my best shot."
In the girls 15-18 division, Nelson will compete in the 50 freestyle, 100 backstroke, 200 back, 200 butterfly and 400 individual medley.
Her strongest event by far is the 100 backstroke, but Nelson expects to have more success in a different event.
"I've got a better chance of bringing home a medal in the 200 butterfly, because fewer people swim that," she explained. "We are taking a very good group of swimmers. They are all experienced and they know what they're doing. I expect all of them to take home a medal from the Junior Olympics this year."
Morgan Fraser will compete in seven events. In the girls 9-10 class, she will race in the 50 freestyle, 100 free, 200 free, 50 breaststroke, 100 breast, 50 backstroke and 100 back.
"She's nine years old swimming in the 10 and under," explained Mike Nelson. "She has done great. Next year will be her strong year, but she will be solid in every event this year."
Lauren Medley is no stranger to the Junior Olympics. This year she qualified in three events in the girls 13-14 division: 50 freestyle, 100 breaststroke and 200 breast.
"Lauren has been there quite a few times," said Nelson. "Of her three events, her breaststroke is her best. She will be a contender in both of them."
Victoria Moy will swim in four events in the girls 11-12 class. It is her fourth year to the Junior Olympics. Gabrielle Greer qualified last Monday at Paducah and will race in the girls 11-12 50 freestyle. Josh Atchley is making his second trip to the Junior Olympics. He will race in the 100 butterfly. Mark Fraser will compete in the boys 11-12 50 breaststroke.
"Most of these kids have been to the Junior Olympics at least once, so they know what to expect," said Nelson. "You never know what kind of competition you're going to run into, but I think all of them have a good shot."
Jake Pewitt qualified in the boys 9-10 50 breaststroke, but is unable to attend the JO meet.
Sikeston's swim team will finish out the regular season on Saturday with championships at Cape Girardeau.
"I'm so proud of all the parents we've had this year," said Nelson. "It takes a lot of work to put on a swim meet, and it's all done by the parents. I can't say enough about the help we've gotten and all the support for the kids."