Stingrays set, ready

Published 12:02 am Thursday, July 25, 2013

Brandon Hudson works on his butterfly stroke during Tuesday’s practice. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Brandon Hudson works on his butterfly stroke during Tuesday’s practice. |
Andrew Garner/Star-News

On Monday night, Andalusia Stingrays coach Gavin Donaldson held up a blank piece of paper.

And on that piece of paper will be written what our local swim team will accomplish Friday and Saturday at the ARPA State Swim Meet in Cullman, the coach said.

“I told them the story hasn’t been written,” Donaldson said. “You have the opportunity to write your own story. Just remember this — don’t leave Cullman with any regrets.”

Thirty-one of Andalusia’s 40 swimmers will make the long trek to the Cullman Wellness and Aquatic Center for the two-day meet.

The meet starts Friday morning with the individual medley, breaststroke and 50-yard freestyle events. In the afternoon, swimmers will compete in the medley relay.

On Saturday morning, the butterfly, backstroke and 100-yard freestyle events will be held. In the afternoon, the freestyle relay event will commence.

All swim events are timed finals and will be seeded according to all applicable USA Swimming rules.

This year’s meet will be Donaldson’s 11th straight appearance as a coach.

“The kids have worked hard,” he said. “By the time we get through with state and all of their swims they’ve done this year, they will have swam more than 100 miles this summer.”

Donaldson narrowed the more-than 100-mile figure down to yards, and it came out to 100,076.

“That’s a lot,” he said.

In fact, it’s more yardage than any other swim team Donaldson has coached.

The new swimming program came from Troy swim coach Shane Tatum. Donaldson said he took what he learned from Tatum and modified it fit the summer program for the Stingrays so it can be a benefit for all swimmers.

“What I have learned from that is that now their 50(-yard) swim times — they’re turning 50 times that none of the other kids have seen,” Donaldson said. “That’s throughout the age groups. It’s not just one particular age group or another. It’s all of them.”

Carrie Browning, Andalusia’s 10-and-under coach, can attest to the faster times.

“We’ve done fairly heavy sets on 50s,” Browning said. “Hopefully, when they get to the state meet (on Friday), they can push themselves to go just that few seconds faster.”

Like Donaldson, Browning is excited about the upcoming state competition.

“I’m excited and nervous at the same time,” she said. “With the weather affecting the pracitces, I’m a little nervous. We’ve been practicing pretty intense when we’ve been here (at Cooper Pool).

“I’m looking to see some dropped times,” she said. “We’ve been working on some sprints and endurance things. Hopefully, we’ll see some dropped times.”

While swimming faster times is a great thing, there’s nothing more the coaches can help the swimmers with before tomorrow’s state meet start.

“Right now, they’re programmed with what they’ve got,” Donaldson said. “For right now, I’m done coaching. I’m there to encourage them, but fixing things is over with.

“They’re muscle-memory programmed and react with what we’ve got right now in place,” he said.

Medals will be awarded to 1st-6th place in individual swimming events, and to 1st-3rd place in relay events. Ribbons will be awarded to 7th-8th place in individual events, and 4th-8th in relays. Team trophies will be awarded in the large and small municipalities.

Warm ups are slated to begin at 7:45 a.m. Friday with the meet start time at 10 a.m. for both days.