Crenshaw County youth make splash at state swim meet

By Haley Mitchell Godwin

The Alabama Recreation and Parks Association (ARPA) held its state swim meet at the Birmingham CrossPlex July 21-22, and fans gathered for the event witnessed a wave of talented young swimmers from Crenshaw County. Showcasing their skills and determination, were Maggie Ballard, Collin Smith and Charlee Smith, who represented their respective teams with pride.

Ballard, an 8-year-old Brantley native and a swimmer for the Andalusia Stingrays, displayed her resilience and versatility at the meet. The daughter of Robin and Samantha Ballard, Maggie’s journey in competitive swimming spans three years. This year, her efforts were split between the pool and the softball field, where she excelled as an all-star team member. Ballard secured her spot at the state meet by emerging as one of the top four swimmers in each event during the ARPA district meet on July 8 in Dothan. 

“Maggie had so much fun and has declared to work hard so she can go back again next year,” Samantha Ballard said. “She also made some new friends at the state which made my mama heart so happy since she broke out of her shell a little bit.”

All three young swimmers displayed a commendable level of dedication, determination, and talent throughout the state meet according to Ballard who said their accomplishments are a reflection of their hard work and the support they have received from their families, coaches and communities.

Collin Smith, the nine-year-old son of Cody and Cameron Smith, represented the Troy Tiger Sharks (TTS) at the state meet. Collin brought home second place in the boys 8U small teams category and the 25 butterfly event. Additionally, Collin received a certificate for “Level 1 Best Freestyler” for his outstanding performance. 

Collin’s sister, Charlee, also excelled in the competition, securing second place in the state for girls 8U small teams and in the 25-butterfly event. She also was honored as TTS level 1 best breaststroker. 

Charlee is also the 2023 reigning Little Miss Crenshaw County. 

Both Collin and Charlee qualified for the state competition during the district meet where they raced together in 8U mixed freestyle relay and 8U mixed medley relay, placing first and second, respectively .Their parents expressed immense pride in their children’s accomplishments and the joy of watching them compete together in two events, the 8U mixed freestyle relay and the 8U mixed medley

“The first day of practice Collin couldn’t make it down the pool without stopping more than 2 to 3 times,” Cameron Smith said. “He came to me with tears in his eyes and told me he couldn’t do it. I stressed to him that he was his own worst critic and that his only goal was to beat the swimmer he was the lap before.

According to Cameron, Collin heeded her advice and persevered, receiving awards for his efforts.

 “When I told him about his awards and medal he said, ‘Mama, I am so proud’” Cameron said “That’s all I’ve ever wanted for all my children, to always be proud of themselves and their accomplishments. It makes my heart swell when I get to watch him and his sister compete together.”