By DANNY P. SMITH
The Mississippi Shockwave Aquatic Team has two swimmers qualified for the Southeastern Zone Championships over the weekend and both carried the banner for their 14-and-under age group.
Cheng Ye made the finals in the 100-meter breaststroke and finished fourth overall, the highest finish for a Starkville swimmer at that meet since 2003, while Laken Vickers came in 10th overall in the 100 and 200 breaststroke.
For Ye, the margin of victory between first and fourth place in the 100 breaststroke was less than .3 seconds.
Not bad for a swimmer who came out of the blocks in last place.
"He was able to recover," Shockwave coach Robert Gonzalez said. "At the 50-meter turn, halfway through the meet, he was back up to second place. He was able to recover and maintain that position into the last 5 yards.
"In the last 5 yards, there were five swimmers who were completely deadlocked. It came down to the last couple of strokes and unfortunately, we weren't able to quite come through with a win. To be able to put together that kind of a swim after such a poor start, I was really happy."
The effort was a life-time best for Ye and it was a life-time best in four consecutive events for him at the zone meet. He only missed a state record by .3 seconds and missed winning the zone championships by .3 seconds.
"It was a really fun swim," Gonzalez said. "I wish for the life of me that he could have come out on top, but a fourth-place finish at that caliber meet is a fine job."
At the zone Championships, the top eight make in the preliminaries. In the 200-meter breaststroke preliminaries, Ye finished ninth and just missed out on making the finals of the 200 breaststroke in .2 seconds and missed on the state record in .4 seconds.
Even though Vickers wasn't quite as sharp at zones as she was in winning the 100 and 200 breaststroke, Gonzalez considered finishing in the top 10 at zones a quality outing.
"(Zones) was a little bit tougher for her physically," Gonzalez said. "In opening both of those events, she took it out exactly like we wanted her to, but I thought her split in the 200 was good and her first 50 split for the 100 was exactly where we wanted it, but she just couldn't quite maintain the pace and having the back-to-back meets kind of caught up with her and she wasn't quite able to recover as well as she needed to.
The caliber of swimming at this meet was beyond anything (Ye and Vickers) had ever seen before and they were right there knocking on the door of the top eight and really putting together some great swims under pretty tough circumstances. As a program, we are still very proud of (Ye and Vickers) to be able to represent us as well as they did this season."
Gonzalez called the state meet two weeks ago "solid" for the squad overall.
"All you can ask for as a coach is for the athletes to put forth the effort in practice all season long and you want them to do well," Gonzalez said. "I thought those who showed character throughout the season in coming to practice, working hard, being on time and putting forth the effort there, had tremendous meets.
"The improvement rates were really impressive."
Gonzalez said there was not a swimmer who practiced like they were supposed to this summer that did not see a majority if not 100 percent best times.
Along with Ye and Vickers winning state in the 100 and 200 breaststroke, The 10-under age division particularly caught Gonzalez's eye and he thought Kaylie Beth Hobart, Olivia Thompson and Kate Vickers were three of the outstanding swimmers of the meet.
"They were banging out best-time after best-time consistently," Gonzalez said. "They were all in the majority of their events in the top 3 or top 5 finishes at the state level in every single event."
Anna Carr qualified in backstroke for the zone championship on the last day of the state championship she had a AAA time.
Gonzalez said Carr has a history of swimming,
"Her family has been involved in swimming for the better part of 10 years," Gonzalez said. "Since I was swimming, they were involved with it."
Gonzalez was proud of Starkville's representation in both meets and hopes it will serve as momentum going forward into the next season.