Mary Persons freshman Maela McKallip claimed a State Championship the weekend of July 17-18 when she finished first in the 50 meter freestyle in the 13-14-year age division at the Georgia Tech meet. She missed placing first in the 100 m freestyle as well by touching the pool side only tenths of a second behind the first place finisher.
Her head coach, Jason Swaim, said Maela’s time qualifies her for the Georgia Zone Select Team at the Southern Zone Championships in Tupelo, Miss. July 28-31. This is an elite competition where the top eight in each age group in Georgia will compete against top swimmers from throughout the southeastern U.S.
Maela competes with the Swim Macon Aquatic Club on Northside Drive in Macon and has been swimming with the team since she was about eight years old. This summer she has practiced 3 1/2-4 hours Monday-Thursday and about two hours on Friday and Saturday. Monday-Thursday practices are in two sessions, 7:30-9:30 a.m. and 3:30-5 p.m.
The hard work paid off for Maela in February when she became State Champion in the 50 yards short course freestyle for 13-14 year-old girls. The meet was held at Georgia Tech’s McAuley Aquatic Center, but no spectators were allowed because of COVID restrictions. Swaim said that, unlike usual swim meets, Maela didn’t know immediately that she had won because the competition was held in groups of about 250 swimmers, and final times from each group were compared to determine the finishing rank.
“I knew she could win those events, but I don’t think she knew it,” said Swaim. “It’s a big deal.”
Swaim said Maela was able to extend her state championship last weekend to the 50 m long course with her first place finish. This meet was a more traditional competition with about 850 swimmers.
Swaim said the short course distance is used in winter meets while the long course distance is used in summer meets. Swaim said Maela is a versatile swimmer who also competes in other events, but the 50 and 100 freestyles are her strongest events. He said she finished in the top 10 in all of her events but one.
Swaim said Swim Macon has had State Champions before but is a small team compared to the large Atlanta teams. He said the swimmers on the team are all good friends and have a tight bond. He said Maela is easy to coach and is an asset to the team with her personality as well as her talent.
“Everybody loves Maela,” he said. “She’s fun and has a great sense of humor.”
He said the Southern Zone Championships in Tupelo take Maela to the level where USA Swimming begins identifying talent for international competition. He said she has made the time standard to qualify for a scholarship to a Division l university. Her next step will be the junior level U.S. championships for 18 and under.
Maela is a varsity competition cheerleader at Mary Persons. She is the daughter of Rob and Jill McKallip and the sister of Isaac, Ava (2021 Mary Persons salutatorian) and Rilyn (2019 Mary Persons valedictorian).