The Aqua Jags finished yet another successful season with three relays and two individual events qualifying for state. This is the second year in a row that the budding team has qualified in at least one event, and Head Coach Melissa Basel says it’s just the beginning.
“I want to build a legacy here. I want these kids to keep going every year. It makes a big statement,” Basel said. “This year we’re taking three relays and two individual events to state. Next year I would like to increase the number of individual events to maybe four, or five even.”
The team faced a variety of challenges unique to this season. Due to reduced capacity, the Covid-19 pandemic made it harder to find meets to compete in.
Another change this season involved early 6 a.m. practice times. Sophomore Finn Morton, who was part of the boy’s 200 medley relay, 200 freestyle relay and 400 freestyle relay team, said that his team is his biggest motivation to get up in the morning.
“I think about my team, about not letting them down, and I think about not letting myself down because I know I’ve always been really close to state time. I want to get up and try my hardest,” Morton said.
Coach Basel says the strong bond between teammates made this season successful.
“They’re all very good friends. They encourage each other and push each other. I demand a lot of excellence, but they also demand it from each other,” Basel said.
Sophomore James Xiao was on all three state-qualifying relays in addition to his two individual events, the 100 fly and the 200 individual medley. He also appreciates the encouraging atmosphere of the team.
“Everyone’s friends with each other, everyone motivates each other, especially in big meets, (when we’re) racing big events like the relays, everyone’s on their feet and ready to cheer,” Xiao said.
On Feb. 3 at the state meet at Georgia Tech, the team placed 23rd overall in the state out of 32 teams in division 4A-5A. Xiao placed fourth in the 200 IM with a personal best time of 1:57.52 minutes and seventh in the 100-fly with a personal best time of 52.07 seconds.
“I’m very, very proud of all that they’ve accomplished. The way that they have pushed through adversities and these incredibly challenging times, and kept showing up for each other,” Basel said.