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Swimmers have few area college choices

By By Jimmy Boone / special to The Star
July 15, 2003
Swim coaches in Mississippi say it is a common story.
The coach helps a child develop from a young swimmer to one of the best in the state, and then helps them choose to attend college out of state.
Delta State University is the only college to offer an intercollegiate swim team. The Statesmen participate in Division II, while the top swimmers hope to swim at a Division I program.
Brian Ware, the coach of the Makos Swim Team from the Jackson area feels that the lack of collegiate swimming affects involvement by older swimmers.
Makos said it is hard to recruit swimmers and his club has become creative in reaching young swimmers.
Ware said it is not just a problem with Mississippi colleges, but also the success of programs in neighboring states.
Ware said sometimes they have to go very far away.
While he has sent some swimmers to Delta State, Ware said he also has sent swimmers to Emory University in Atlanta, Loyola of Maryland, and Butler University in Indiana.
Robert Gonzalez, a swim coach in Starkville, Columbus, and West Point has also seen students go out of state.
Gonzales is part of a swim team with coaches in Tupelo and Oxford.
Gonzalez said that the problem is not the lack of facilities.
Gonzalez said that losing students to out-of-state schools hurts in other ways as well.
Two swimmers from Gonzalez' team said they decided to attend school in Illinois, partly because of the lack collegiate swimming in Mississippi.
Laura Madsen who attends Wheaton with her sister agreed.
Christie Vaughn of Meridian will be facing the question over the next year of where to attend college.
Vaughn will be a senior at Calvary Christian School this fall.
Vaughn said except for Delta State, she does not expect to attend college in Mississippi.
Nancy Blewitt is a swimming coach with Crimson Tide Aquatics in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Blewitt enjoys being a part of a swim team, which actually practices in the same facility as the University of Alabama swim team.
Blewitt said another advantage is that her swimmers are able to attend meets on campus and see some of the top swimmers in the nation.
Blewitt was quick to say that working with the staff is no guarantee that her swimmers will swim at Alabama.