VSA hauls in 16 medals, three championships at Mississippi State Swim Meet

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The thing Austin Norwood remembers most about one of the best days of his young life is the silence, followed by the screaming.

The 12-year-old Vicksburg Swim Association member had just touched the wall almost a half-second ahead of the Mississippi Makos’ Warner Russ to win the Mississippi Swimming state championship in the 50-meter breaststroke on Sunday. As the water cleared from his ears and the sound returned, he and a friend let out a whoop of joy that shattered the quiet of the Delta State Aquatics Center.

“Adam Eckstein was cheering me on at the end of the pool, and when I finished we both looked up at the board and we see ‘one’ by my name and started screaming. The only thing you could hear throughout the entire pool was us screaming,” Norwood said. “I felt like I had a shot to get top three. I never imagined I would become a state champion.”

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Norwood’s gold medal was one of three the VSA squad won at last weekend’s state meet, and part of an impressive day overall for the Killer Whales. Tulio Figarola won the 9-10-year-olds’ state titles in the 100-meter backstroke and 400 freestyle, and seven VSA swimmers had a total of 16 top-three individual finishes.

Tulio Figarola

Norwood also was on the 200 freestyle and 200 medley relay teams with Tony Fields, Beau Harris and Jon Daniel Busby that finished second in both events. Norwood added a third-place finish in the 100-meter freestyle to his breaststroke gold as well.

“We’ve never had that many people in the top eight, much less racing to be state champions,” VSA coach Mathew Mixon said. We had two guys that were state champions, and the events that they weren’t state champions they were second and third. So they were racing for state championships. Our VSA cap was there a lot.”

The Killer Whales finished sixth out of 12 teams overall, 257 points ahead of seventh-place Laurel Swim Association. Performance Elite Aquatics, a Jackson-based team, was fifth with 2,290.5 points. The Mississippi Makos won the team title with 4,272 points.

Each of the top five teams had nearly 100 swimmers competing in the meet. The VSA had 18.

“We beat pretty much every team that we can physically beat. There’s 12 teams total and the top five are megateams. It should be two divisions, really. So we beat everybody that’s in our league. We’re super happy about that. We try to pride ourselves on being the best of the Little Six,” Mixon said. “That’s my favorite part. It’s not just one or two kids out there shining. It’s an overall team effort. That’s why I think people are recognizing us. Every other heat you’ve got somebody in it, and it’s somebody in the fast lanes and they’re racing for a top three spot. It becomes more noticeable. Especially when you’ve only got 18 kids at the meet, all of a sudden they’re all in there.”

Figarola helped pad the Killer Whales’ point total with a strong performance. He won the 400 freestyle with a time of 5 minutes, 37.49 seconds, and the 100 backstroke in 1:25.38. Figarola was second in the 200 freestyle and 50 backstroke, third in the 200 individual medley and 100 freestyle to finish as the runner-up for the individual high point trophy in the 9-10-year-olds’ age group to Sunkist Swim Team’s John Michael Oliphant.

“That was a good performance to secure that trophy (Figarola) because it was a tight race. He had to fight hard for that,” Mixon said.

So did Norwood for his state championship. He had the second-fastest time in the 50 breaststroke preliminaries, .12 seconds behind Russ, and the only other swimmer within three seconds of them was Norwood’s VSA teammate Busby.

Both Norwood and Busby also qualified to compete for the Mississippi team in an all-star meet next week in Midland, Texas.

Even so, Norwood said he was shocked to touch the wall first considering he barely even qualified for the state meet in 2017.

“It feels great. I have worked my butt off to get where I am. To accomplish what I finally accomplished, it feels amazing,” Norwood said. “If you would have told me about a year ago that I would be here, I would have laughed. I was straining to make one state time and now I’m here.”

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.

email author More by Ernest