BLAST swim team’s Atkinson breaks record at recent meet
By chance: That is how the young swimming career of BLAST Tigershark swim team member Nolan Atkinson’s swimming career started.
After started swimming when he was 5years old, Atkinson’s babysitter invited him to her swim team practice—and the rest is history.
“Amber Nelson was babysitting for us a few days that summer and asked if he could go to swim team practice with her, and of course he wanted to go,” Nolan’s mom Lisa Atkinson said. “When he came home that evening he told me he wanted to join the team. I honestly didn’t think this was something he would enjoy, but we let him join that summer anyway.”
While Nolan took to swimming rather quickly, it was not until the following January he started to swim competitively.
“I was amazed at what he had learned to do in just a few short months,” Lisa said. “The first swim meet we attended was in Prattville. It was a small meet, and he won some of his heats.
Lisa said that was all that her son needed to hook him on swimming.
The next summer Nolan won High Point Winner at the Gulf Coast Area Aquatic League (GCAAL) City Meet Championships as a 6-year-old. The winning continued his next year as a 7-year-old, and then as an 8-year-old, and most recently this past week as a 9-year-old.
“I remember (BLAST Tigershark swim team coach) Angel (Boyd) came up to me before that meet began and told me that he had a good chance of winning the whole competition that day,” Lisa said. “My response was ‘really?’. That is when (husband) Rob and I realized that he was really good at this sport, and as long as he was committed we would continue to encourage him. He went on to win as a 7-year-old, 8-year-old and then this year as a 9-year-old.”
Going into his most recent meet as a 9-year-old, Nolan was seeded second behind his big rival from the Eastern Shore Piranhas (ESP) Davis Amare.
“Davis is Nolan’s rival and they always seem to swim against each other at many of these meets we attend and Nolan always has to swim hard against him because he is a fierce competitor,” Lisa said.
Nolan said although he does a lot of swimming, he has one favorite swim stroke that he is the best at.
“My favorite stroke is the freestyle because that’s what I swim the best,” he said. “My least favorite is the breast stroke. I had a hard time learning how to do the kicks. (Assistant) coach Brandee (Morris) always said it was because my ankles had magnets in them and I didn’t want to kick them apart.”
Nolan said he has hopes to have a future in swimming.
“I would love to go swim for Auburn one day,” Nolan said. “I’m a big Auburn fan, and they have the best swim team for college. I got into swimming because I thought it was fun and I love to race against hard competitors. Michael Phelps is my favorite swimmer because he is the best swimmer of all time and Missy Franklin because she swam at the Olympics and was still in high school.”
While racking up his fourth straight High Point Trophy championship at his recent meet, Nolan had another feat to celebrate as he broke a swim record.
“It felt really good to break the record,” he said. “That was the first ever broken record for our team. My time was 15.63. The record was 15.67 set in 2007 by Andrew Snzdel. I will receive a plaque with this information printed on it.”
Lisa said they didn’t realize that Nolan had broken the 25-yard Butterfly record until they got home from the meet on Saturday.
“Coach Angel sent me a message telling me that Nolan had done this and Rob and I were both excited with his accomplishments,” Lisa said. “We were also excited that coach Angel had won the Coach of the Year award and the team won the award for most team spirit. This is an award that she definitely deserves as well as our team.
“They continuously encourage each other at the meets standing behind the start blocks giving last minute swim tips, pointing out who each one has to beat, and competing with each other at practice. That is what makes a great team.”
Lisa said she and her husband Rob owe all Nolan’s success to Boyd.
“Coach Angel has a love for the sport and the kids on the team that shows every time they swim at an event,” she said. “She works them hard at practice every day. To her it’s not always about winning, but about improving each swimmers times. She is always looking for their personal best times at every meet, regardless if they win the heat, and congratulates them even if they didn’t succeed.
“That encouragement, I believe, is what keeps the kids working so hard for her.”