Gray earns another swimming championship on road to Olympics

By Staff
FULL SPEED AHEAD Meridian's Jacob Gray, 12, who already has a state title under his belt, puts in long hours in hopes of one day competing in the Olympics. Photo by Carisa McCain/ The Meridian Star
By Chris Allen Baker / staff writer
April 4, 2002
Jacob Gray rises each morning but does not prepare for school like other students. His day begins in a swimming pool to keep his edge for the next competition.
Gray hopes that edge will some day carry him to the Olympics.
For now, his next stop is the long course state swim meet in July at Delta State University. Having recently won another state title, Gray has his eyes on a future Olympic gold medal.
Analyzing professional swimmers' techniques, swimming one or more hours in the morning and about two or more hours daily in afternoon practice, and competing in state and regional tournaments are tools Gray uses to stay ahead of the curve.
A member of the Meridian Swim Association, Gray added a third overall state title in the boys 11-12 age bracket last month at the Mississippi Winter State Short Course Championship Meet in Laurel.
Gray competed against the top 24 swimmers of his age among 13 teams and was a finalist in all nine events he entered. He earned five first place awards, three second places and one third place to collect 167 individual points to win the championship.
The championship also earned Gray a free trip to the Grand Cayman Islands this summer. Gray hopes a strong finish at DSU will put him in position for national competition.
Gray started swimming at age four and became interested in competition at age seven. His brother, Michael, 18, also swam for 13 years.
Gray said it all starts in his daily routine. He practices eight times each week including three morning sessions and five evening sessions.
Gray wakes up at 4:30 a.m. and by 5:30 , Gray is in the pool at Meridian Community College swimming laps until 6:30. After-school practice keeps Gray in the pool from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. followed by homework and Gray is in bed by 8 p.m. on days that do not include evening practice.
When training rotates to evenings, his practices run from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
The intensity of training keeps Gray focused.
Gray also enjoys deer and turkey hunting, golf, fishing and playing basketball.
Gray said his primary support comes from his grandparents, Sonny and Ann Crowe, with whom he lives in Marion. Sonny attends all of Gray's practices and, with Ann, has not missed any of Gray's or his brother's swim meets.
Crowe said getting his grandson to practice is not difficult.
MSA Coach Chris Engledow said Gray is one of the strongest and most motivated swimmers he has had in his three years of coaching and 20 years as a swimmer.
Engledow said part of Gray's success is endurance and strength and he can only get better and faster as his body matures.
Moving up to high school competition is not far away for Gray, who Engledow said already practices far above the older swimmers. Engledow said the high school swimmers swim one-sixth of the distance Gray swims.
Gray hopes to earn an athletic scholarship to the University of Alabama on his way to Olympic competition.