TIFTON — The Georgia Recreation and Park Association state Class B swim meet starts today, kicking off two of the busiest days of summer in Tift County.
The meet, which takes place annually at the Baldwin Drive Aquatic Center, is set to start at 9 a.m. Warm-ups begin as early as 7 a.m. for some teams.
Tift County Recreation Director Craig Sowell estimated 535 swimmers would hit the pool for the state meet from 16 agencies representing five of seven Georgia districts. The numbers are fewer this year, said Sowell, because of changes in meet organizations. In previous years Classes B and C have been combined for state. This time around, they are separate; B is at Tifton, C at Ringgold.
The classification split is not the only change.
All preliminaries are set for today and most finals will be Saturday, said Sowell. The exceptions involve events with eight or fewer swimmers competing. Since only one heat is needed, there is no need for a preliminary. The eight-or-fewer events will swim once — as finals — and are to take place today. There are 90 total events at the state meet.
The Tiftarea Tidal Wave will be one of the 16 teams competing at the state meet. Head coach Dustin Bengston said 33 of his charges qualified for the tournament, more than most of the squads at the meet.
The district meet, which took place two weeks ago, was a very good one for the Tidal Wave. Bengston said more than 90 percent of all swims ended in personal best times.
“I am not surprised by that,” he said, “but it is quite an accomplishment.”
Many of Bengston’s qualifiers are younger, with 16 of the 33 falling in the 7-8 and 9-10 age groups. Training is adjusted for them, he said.
“The races are shorter, so there is a big focus on starts and finishes.”
Parking is available all around the Baldwin Drive Aquatic Center, on the sides of Baldwin Drive, around the baseball fields, beside and behind the Department of Family and Children Services on 2nd Street and also at the Leroy Rogers Senior Center. Parking at the latter has been disallowed in the past, but Sowell said it had been rented this year.
The Leroy Rogers Senior Center will also be opened in case of inclement weather.
Sowell said vendors for the swim meet include Tift County Recreation Department, SnoBiz, Yellow Monkey Frozen Yogurt, Eagle Sportz and Marco’s Pizza.
Tidal Wave sponsors this year are, at the gold medal level, CDH Construction, the Hellman family, The Howard Center, Howard Diet Center, the Burke family, Pediatric Dental Center, KB Flooring, Georgia Sports Medicine, Smile Doctors and Ashburn Pharmacy.
“We would not be able to run the program that we run without the help of all our sponsors,” said Bengston.