EARLIER: Shelby swimmers ready for Sectional

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Sharks sending four to national meet

By Todd Martin

Four members of the Shelby Sharks are looking to hit peak speed this week.

“We just want to go fast,” said Amanda Skinner, Lindsey Anderson, Collin Kessinger and Addison Barlow.

The four girls are warming up for the biggest meet of their lives. The team will come together to race in the 400-medley relay, and Skinner will also compete in the 100 and 200 breast and the 100 fly at the Southern Zone Eastern Section meet at Cary, N.C., this week.

“I think they can do awesome, because they’re so excited to go,” Sharks Coach Jeremiah Heath said. “The fact that most of them are going for one event, but they’re still so pumped up shows how excited they are. They’re all very confident, they love to compete, and they’re eager to show what they can do.”

The Sectional meet can be one of the fastest meets of the year, depending on who shows up.

“It’s going to be very tough competition,” Heath said. “When it’s not an Olympic year, it can be one of the fastest meets in the country.”

The girls, though, are excited to see the competition and show what they’re capable of doing.

“This is the first time in five years that we’ve had a relay qualify,” Skinner said. “So it’s really even more exciting.”

Skinner is the only one with Sectional experience. She has been the only member of the Sharks to qualify for the past two seasons.

“This year’s going to be the best,” she said. “I’m going to have a cheerleading section with me. I usually do better with more people there, so I’m really excited.”

Heath said that having a group go is a big advantage.

“Really, the experience is the best thing for them,” he said. “Getting there and seeing how other people train for this meet and how they are around the meet and the events, it’s just a huge bonus.”

Skinner and Anderson, both high school seniors, hope to use this meet to propel themselves into college seasons next year.

“This will be a great way to prepare us for the NCAA meets, so we won’t be intimidated,” Skinner said.

Anderson added: “I think this is bigger than any NCAA meet, except maybe Division I.”

Both girls are looking at Transylvania University, but Anderson is hoping to use this event to get her to Vanderbilt University and on the swim team there.

“That’s my dream, but I’d love to keep swimming with Amanda at Transylvania,” she said.

Though Skinner and Anderson will use the meet to move on, the youngsters – Kessinger, 13, and Barlow, 14 – said they hope to learn from the meet.

“We’re definitely more excited than nervous,” Kessinger said. “We’re super-pumped.”

Said Anderson: “I’m excited for Addison and Collin, because they’re so young. They have a lot of time left to get back here. I would describe this as the pinnacle of my swimming career, but they have a lot of chances to get back here.”

Though winning is always the goal, it’s hard to tell what the competition will be like at the Sectional meet. So the team sets its own goals.

“Until you get to the Olympic Trials in swimming, placing doesn’t really matter,” Heath said. “It’s about improving your times each and every time, so that’s what we’re focused on.”