Mathias wins state swim title

Published 12:55 am Monday, December 8, 2008

The AHSAA 500-yard freestyle championship belongs to Briarwood Christian 14-year-old Mallory Mathias — an event she can look to win for the next four years.

“It feels good. All the hard work I’ve done has paid off,” Mathias said after swimming her best time ever in the 500 Saturday night at the University of Alabama Aquatics center.

Mathias, seeded first in the final, led from the moment she jumped in the pool in lane four, never letting up to allow Tuscaloosa County’s Ashley Berger to get near.

“I kind of blocked everybody else out. I could tell I was in the lead, but I was swimming fast, because I knew someone might could catch up to me. You never know,” Mathias said.

But as she entered the last 25 yards, Mathias said she knew the championship was hers. Moments later she hit the wall to complete the 20-lap swim in 5:05.21 and looked up to see a No. 1 go next to her name on the board.

“I was really happy,” said Mathias, who finished third in the 500 last year.

Mathias was the youngest individual girls’ state champion Saturday, and hopes to defend her title over the next four years while swimming for the Briarwood Lions. She said she hopes to continue to shave her time in the event, which she already did Saturday by shaving 00:02.40 off her qualifying time of 5:07.68.

One of her high school goals is to at least break the state record, set in 2004 by Hoover seventh-grader Chloe Sutton at 4:53.37. Like most swimmers, the goals go beyond high school records and college competition. Less than four months after Michael Phelps won a record eight gold medals at the Olympics in Bejing, Mathias said she hopes she one day can compete in the international games.

In addition to the 500-yard freestyle, Mathias raced the 200-yard freestyle, finishing fourth behind Oak Mountain sophomore Kreable Young by one-tenth of a second.

Young was the only other swimmer from Shelby County to place in the Top 3 in a race Saturday, edging Mathias with a time of 1:56.92.

Young entered the 200 final with the second fastest time from the morning preliminary but did not know that she could place until she hit the wall.

“When I did my last flip turn, I messed up, and I thought (Mallory) was going to beat me. I just pushed all the way through as hard as I could, and I looked up and got third. It was definitely a big surprise,” Young said.

In the 500, Young stayed the same, entering the day in fourth position and finishing fourth.

Other county swimmers that advanced past the preliminaries and into a consolation or final round were Madison Scordino and Caleb Wade of Briarwood; Elizabeth Miller of Indian Springs; Natalie Landerman and Corey Lewis of Oak Mountain; Madeline Held, Elizabeth Lopham, Emily Lin, Rebecca Lin and Danielle Robertson of Spain Park; and Kelsey Williams of Thompson,