Wallace’s memory honored at meet

Published 12:30 am Sunday, September 13, 2015

The phrase “Afton Strong” still resonates within the Vicksburg swimming community. Warren Central coach Mathew Mixon said his team is still going through the closure process of losing a great teammate and friend in Afton Wallace, and haven’t had too much discussion about her passing.

During the St. Aloysius Invitational Saturday, Warren Central’s swim team sent up 18 yellow balloons, each representing a year of her life.

“We’ve kind of been able to move forward. It was nice to do a tribute. It wasn’t all sad and it was a good tribute and raised awareness for the pediatric cancer,” Mixon said.

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Wallace’s passing affected members of St. Al swim team as well.

“A lot of our swimmers swam with her all year long,” said St. Al swim coach Bruce Ebersole. “I think it’s great they honor her and try to emulate the things that she stood for, so it’s very important for our team as well.”

Saturday brought a cool and breezy 77-degree temperature for the meet, which featured 11 schools including St. Al, Vicksburg and Warren Central.

“It’s a great meet today. We got good teams. This is pretty stiff competition. So far we’re swimming great but there’s a lot of good swimmers here,” Ebersole said.

He had two great times in the 500-yard freestyle, which ended up being the strongest event for the Flashes. Eighth-graders Matthew Copes and Adam Eckstein finished in 5 minutes and 45 seconds and 6:13, respectively. Copes finished fourth, and Eckstein sixth.

Copes also finished fifth in the 200 freestyle. Gabriel Riveros was third in the 50 freestyle, and Adrienne Eckstein third in the girls’ 100-yard backstroke. Katie Martin and Adrienne Eckstein were on the girls’ 400-yard freestlye relay that finished third, and Martin finished third in the 100 breaststroke.

Eighth-grader Tommy Martin finished second in the 100 breaststroke, with a time of 1:13.32. Teammate Andrew Ulmer, a freshman, was fifth in the 100 breaststroke in 1:17.36.

St. Al finished second in the boys’ team standings with 85 points, and fourth in the combined team scores. Oak Grove won the boys’ meet with 122 points.

Alexandria (La.) Senior High won the girls’ meet with 140 points, Madison-St. Joe was second with 112, and Oak Grove was third with 51. St. Al finished fourth, with 49 points.

Ebersole tries to encourage his swimmers to set goals based around time instead of placement.

“We stay focused on the time goal for individual (races) and relays. We’re going to try and win the MAIS championship and I think we have a pretty good chance at it,” Ebersole said. “We’ve never been in their league before so we’re going to give it a go.”

Vicksburg coach Ebony Gardner said the strongest events for her team were the boys’ 50-yard freestyle and the 200-yard freestyle relay.

Cameron Davis swam the 50 free in 26.56 seconds, while the team of Davis, Jonah Juve, Nicholas Crasta and Robert Lowery swam the 200 free relay in 1:48.55. Davis was seventh in the 50 free, and the relay team came in sixth place.

The same relay swimmers finished sixth in the 200 medley relay, with a time of 2:14.86.

The Gators are a small team that competed in a big meet, but used it to fix things and make improvements. Getting ready for the meet, Gardner had her team practice on turns, hand placement and arm speed, depending on the stroke.

“We’ve done a lot of their specialty strokes. They’ve been doing all right in their freestyle so it’s been a lot of their specialty and that’s where we’ve seen a big improvement,” Gardner said.

After Saturday’s tournament, Gardner is going to continue to work on turns, underwater pullout and breakouts with her team.

“It’s not so much as in the middle of the pool but what’s happening on both ends,” Gardner said “We’re swimming against ourselves.”

Mixon saw improvement from Warren Central’s boys, and was pretty happy with the effort from the girls.

Abi Wallace finished fourth in the girls’ 100-yard backstroke for Warren Central, with a time of 1:16.26. Carley Copelin was fifth in the 50 freestyle with a time of 28.28 seconds.

“We need depth in the guys side. On the girls side we have to get our sprint speed up. I think our endurance is getting better. In general most all of our girls cut time today. They’re getting faster on their longer events,” Mixon said.

Unlike Ebersole and Gardner, Saturday was more about competing and seeing where the Vikings stack up against divisional opponents.

Most of the teams the Vikings swam against were out of their division except Oak Grove and Vicksburg. Mixon compared the results of his Vikings to those schools to see how they measure up.

Warren Central’s boys finished ninth in the team standings with six points. Vicksburg was seventh, with 19.

In the girls’ meet, Warren Central finished seventh with 31 points. Vicksburg finished 11th out of 11 teams, with just six points.

“When it comes to the state meet, those are the schools we’ll be competing against,” Mixon said. “Today since it was a larger meet we went after the three relays and wanted to see where we stacked up against the field.”