VSA’s Martin, Fields headed to sectional swim meet in Atlanta

Published 9:25 am Thursday, March 10, 2016

When they get together, Tommy Martin and Andrew Fields come across as a great comedy team.

Martin, a year older, is the quieter straight man, mixing in a zinger while setting up Fields for the punch line. The fast-talking Fields is a ball of energy, seemingly moving in 10 different directions while finding a joke at each point.

When it comes to swimming, though, the two are deadly serious.

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The Vicksburg Swim Association members are both among the best in their age group in Mississippi, and this weekend will see how they stack up on a bigger stage when they compete in the USA Swimming Eastern Southern Zone Age Group Sectionals in Atlanta.

The 13-year-old Fields will compete in the 100-yard breaststroke. Martin, 14, is qualified in five events. The meet begins Thursday and continues through Sunday at Georgia Tech, and will include swimmers from nearly a dozen states who have met a standard qualifying time in their respective events.

“If I made five events like that, the swim team would break out in revival,” Fields joked, while his friend and teammate smiled.

Fields is making his second consecutive trip to the sectional meet, but Martin has had the better year of the two. After missing the qualifying time for the sectionals by a tenth of a second last year, he made it this time in the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke, the 50- and 100-yard freestyle, and the 200-yard individual medley.

Martin is seeded 33rd out of nearly 100 swimmers in the 100 breaststroke.

“We think I can compete and get in the top 20,” Martin said. “I have to drop .5 (seconds). It sounds like a little bit, but it’s a lot. If you don’t clip your fingernails, it might cost you because you’re hitting a (timing) pad. It sounds crazy. It’s a little bit of time, but it’s a lot of time.”

If Martin can finish in the top 20 during the preliminary heats, he’ll advance to the finals. The margin between the best swimmers at the meet is thin — only a second or two separates the No. 1 seed from the No. 100 seed. A good day could propel Martin into the finals, or might not be enough.

With that in mind, the focus is simply on swimming a good race and letting the chips fall where they may. He’s also trying to achieve a qualifying time for the zone meet later this summer in North Carolina, which is the next level after sectionals.

“It’s more about time until you get to that border,” VSA coach Mathew Mixon said. “He’s one of our higher-seeded swimmers, and then the goal becomes ‘let’s make it back.’ Concentrate on the time first, and the rest will come into play.”

While Martin has lofty goals for the meet, Fields’ are more modest. He’ll compete in the 100-yard breaststroke and swim a time trial in the 200 breaststroke, which will give him an opportunity to achieve a qualifying time for next year’s sectionals.

“I’m just trying to do as good as I can. Where I’ll place is a good guess,” Fields said.

Fields made it to sectionals last year and is trying to build on his past experience. Although he’s the more manic of the VSA duo, he said he’s not quite as excited as his last trip. He also joked that he’s just happy to be there.

“I’m not as fired up as I was last time. I’m going to be nervous as I can be when I get there,” Fields said. “I’m trying not to break my legs before I get there.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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