Howard prepares for regional competition

Published 6:03 am Thursday, February 1, 2007

Staff Writer
She slips through the water like a dolphin, and off the diving board her form is art in motion.
Freshman Jessie Howard will take that form, speed and her best strokes — which her coach has labeled “beautiful” — to Goldsboro Saturday to compete in four regional swimming events.
Pam Pack coach Spencer Pake has worked with Howard in the summer leagues and said he’d been excited about getting the chance to coach her this year.
This season Pake has utilized the talented freshman to compete at every event. He said he expects her strong swimming ability to help the girls team advance to the state competition in both medley events.
Howard started swimming competitively at the age of seven, including stints in summer leagues in Greenville and Washington and at the YMCA in New Bern.
Howard said her mother is a strong supporter and an inspiration at the same time.
When asked why she chose to pursue swimming, Howard noted she’s “been in the pool since I was an infant. It’s fun; it’s good exercise.”
Howard is looking forward to Goldsboro, but is also crossing her fingers that a trip to Charlotte will happen. That’s where the state tournament is being held this year.
The Pam Pack, after winning the Class 3-A Coastal Conference championship, is taking 23 swimmers to compete at the regional level.
The top 24 contenders in each event will qualify for the state competition, and the best 16 swimmers of each event go on to the night meet for the championship.
Because she made qualifying times in four events, Howard has four chances to compete at the state level.
The freshman standout said she is looking forward to three more years as a Pam Pack swimmer, is considering Campbell University as her college choice and would like to try out for the college’s girls swim team.
Powell looking to reach the night swim
Washington High school’s Matt Powell tried out for the swim team on a lark.
Coaxed by a friend, Powell recalls his attitude as a sophomore: “I said, ‘Yeah, I can go for a swim.’”
Now a senior, Powell is seeded fifth regionally in the 100-yard breaststroke.
He and 22 other Pam Pack swimmers are heading to Goldsboro Saturday for regional competition. For Powell, it’s his last run at regionals and his last chance to make the state night meet.
He’s advanced to the state level as a sophomore and a junior, but a night swim has so far eluded him. Only the top 16 swimmers go on to compete for state honors at the night meet.
The Pam Pack girls and boys swim team — Class 3-A Coastal Conference champions — have been gearing up for regionals for the past week. And though Powell said it’s been a lot of hard work, he credited Pam Pack coach Spencer Pake for transforming Powell into a power swimmer.
Pake, with a poke to the ribs, returned the compliment. “I fixed his stroke and turned him into a championship competitor.”
Despite a by-chance entrance into the sport, Powell has found a fondness for it.
Powell said his first year swimming competitively was a miracle season. He made it to the regionals that year without any prior organized swimming experience. At the last heat of the regional tournament, he qualified by 1/10th of a second in the 100-yard breaststroke, which advanced him to the state competition.
Since that initial qualifying swim three years ago, Powell has dropped about 8 seconds off the “burn-out swim” that the senior says “takes everything out of you.”
His favorite swim, he said, is a team medley event. Powell and his teammates have been swimming in the relay together for the past three years.
Powell said he enjoys the camaraderie and the team aspect of swimming. With just a few more meets together before the season is over, Powell wants to close out the year with a big showing at state.
Last year, Powell finished 17th in the state in the breaststroke swim he’s mastered. The top 16 advance to compete for the state championship at the night meet.
Pake said Powell, then a junior, was a fraction of a second shy of making the cut.
Since, Powell said he’s improved his time by three seconds and hopes this is the year he can swim at night.