By DANNY P. SMITH
There's a reason coach Robert Gonzalez is walking around Starkville with a smile on his face this week.
After his Mississippi Shockwave Aquatic swim team hosted the 2010 Coca-Cola Fall Invitational over the weekend at the Sanderson Center on the Mississippi State campus, Gonzalez considered it to be a huge success.
The Shockwave always holds one meet during the year in the fall, but this is the first time they have gone to the three-day format.
Teams came in from Columbus, Jackson, Laurel and Baton Rouge, La., so there were many out-of-town supporters of those teams that had to eat, sleep and buy fuel in Starkville. It's expected that the event put a boost in the local economy.
"This is a great thing for Starkville," Gonzalez said. "Most teams stay in hotels and are eating out for three-straight days. We had many swimmers eating at the premier restaurants. It's a great thing to bring revenue into the city which is something we haven't been able to do in the past in having a two-day meet where it's easier to drive back and forth."
Gonzalez appreciates the participation from the Jackson and Laurel teams that came to the meet for the first time. He thanked coaches Chris Chain from Columbus, David Orr from Jackson Sunkist and Warren Holiday from Laurel for bringing such large teams to the meet.
"We had almost 200 swimmers at this meet and that was about 50 swimmers larger than last year so it's the biggest meet we've ever," Gonzalez said. "We were happy about the increase in the level of competition and the overall quality of the meet. We can't do that without teams participating. I think it was a good show for them and I hope they'll come back with more swimmers next year. I'm looking for it to grow and improve."
Gonzalez said it's the goal of the Shockwave to always be the best they can be as a team and any event they host. It's his hope that the Coca-Cola Invitational becomes one of the premier swim meets in the state.
"We have a great facility in the Sanderson Center at Mississippi State," Gonzalez said. "It's just a matter of continuing to get the teams and for the numbers to keep on growing. We offer the events and offer the facility so as long as we can keep on getting the teams in there and increase competition levels, it should continue to increase the level of the meet overall."
Coca-Cola sponsored the meet for the first time this year and Gonzalez said the financial support from the company is very important.
The Shockwave are working to acquire a new scoreboard for the Sanderson Center facility and the donation from Coca-Cola will go a long way in securing that.
As far as the results of the meet, Mississippi Shockwave finished first with a score of 2,007.50, while Swim Columbus came in second at 1,378, Jackson SunKist was third at 774, Laurel Swim Association was third at 200.50 and Tiger Aquatics of Baton Rouge was fourth at 110.
The Shockwave swept the top five spots individually in girls competition with MarkAnne Hobart (15) scoring 102 points, Adina Harri (14) getting 100 points, K.B. Hobart (10) collecting 92 points, Kristen Lacy (13) producing 76 points and Alessandra Otondo (12) acquiring 73 points.
On the boys side, Andy Bond (16) was fourth with 106 points, Adam Bond (14) was next with 87 points and Cheng Ye (14) followed with 79 points.
"We had a lot of good swims," Gonzalez said. "The most exciting thing for us is we had 60 swimmers in Starkville to be able to swim at the meet and for about 20 of them, it was their first meet experience. Getting all those new kids, which are going to be the future of our program, involved in the sport of swimming for the first time was positive for them."
The Shockwave will participate in two December sprint meets set for Columbus and Jackson. The dates and times have not been announced.