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Stewart with her parents Joe and Joely

Stewart a state champion

By Michael Butler

Tallassee High School has its first state champion swimmer. Macey Stewart won the Class 1A-5A 100-yard freestyle on Saturday in Auburn.

Stewart, an eighth grader, won her event by three tenths of a second. Her father Joe, who won a state title with the THS baseball team in 1986, joked that it came down to who had the longest fingernails.

"I was seeded first, so I was thinking I had a pretty good chance," Macey said. "Two of the girls that I swam against last year that beat me were also swimming again. I was thinking top three. I wasn't thinking first though.

"When I'm in the water I see in my peripheral vision the other swimmers, so I try to stay ahead of them. I was nervous because I kept seeing her right there with me, so I was trying to kick it in even harder. I was really excited because I didn't think I had won. When I popped up and looked at the board I saw I had first."

Joe was a proud daddy when he saw Macey's name at the top of the board.

"Your heart swells up. You can't hardly breathe."

Madelyn Weldon gave Macey a box of Junior Mints and a Gatorade.

"She said the Junior Mints gave her the extra kick," Joe added. "It's exciting as a parent. Tallassee's one of the only schools in this area that offers high school swimming."

Joe gave credit to Donna Funderburk with the Tiger Sharks youth program and high school coaches John Mask and Jamie Aldridge.

"This is our third year swimming," Mask said. "We are so proud of Macey. She works really hard. She really is an awesome young swimmer who continues to improve. I think we'll see her swimming at Auburn or Alabama in college, somewhere D-1."

Macey swims five days a week year-round for two hours each session.

"Over Christmas break, we'll have only 15 practices, but they'll be three hours in the mornings," she noted.

Macey is a student at Southside Middle School and will move up to the high school next year although she is already on the high school team. She has four more years of high school swimming in front of her. She has her gold medal now regardless of what the future holds.

"I'm thinking I'm going to frame it."