E.A. Sports Today

Monday’s fast track leads to Indy

Mikey Monday (dark shirt center) talks with Blue Dolphins assistant coach Johnny Pearson (R) and teammate Elon Bush amidst well-wishers Thursday. In the main photo, Monday (L) and Bush cool down after a few laps in the YMCA pool.

Mikey Monday (dark shirt center) talks with Blue Dolphins assistant coach Johnny Pearson (R) and teammate Elon Bush amidst well-wishers Thursday. In the main photo, Monday (L) and Bush cool down after a few laps in the YMCA pool.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

When one considers the speed with which Mikey Monday has developed into a national caliber swimmer, it makes one’s head, well, swim.

In a mere 14 months the Saks product has gone from a swimmer whose technique needed a lot of work to earning a college scholarship to, now, being a hopeful for a national championship.

This weekend, Monday leaves for the biggest meet of his young swimming life — the YMCA Nationals in Indianapolis. He qualified in two events – the 50-meter freestyle and the 100 free — at the Southeastern Championships last week in Knoxville.

Not bad for a kid who jumped into the deep end of competitive swimming only last May.

“This has been a big year, a fun ride, definitely,” Monday said Thursday in the YMCA gym where Blue Dolphins teammates, coaches and supporters gathered for an informal send-off. “It’s like a movie kind of. I don’t know how to explain it.

”I never thought in like over a year’s time I’d go from swimming at my house to swimming in college and in the Y-Nationals.”

It’s even more impressive to think it takes most swimmers years to reach the national stage — if they get there at all. It took Blue Dolphins head coach Brandy Sanders 10 years in the pool before she swam in her first national meet. It took her volunteer assistant Johnny Pearson eight.

“It’s outstanding, it really is,” Pearson said. “I’ve been around this sport for 31 years and been to about every level there was, this just doesn’t happen for any of these kids. It starts with he’s a great athlete — and he’s worked very hard to get there.”

Pearson remembers the first time Monday got in the pool. His technique was way off and his build was more suited to the baseball player he had been than the swimmer he was to become.

“He was a big, strong kid with the upper body like a power lifter who kind of bull-rushed his way through the water,” Pearson said. “He had to really reshape his body. He looks like a swimmer now. He didn’t look like a swimmer a year ago.”

But after that first meet, the coaches knew they had something to work with; even better, Monday was hooked on the sport. From there, he and teammate Elon Bush pushed each other beyond where either thought was possible. They both swam their best times last week in Knoxville.

“After that first meet they were like, ‘You’re going to be done with baseball and you’re just going to swim full-time,’” Monday recalled. “I’m like, ‘OK, that sounds good; I like that’ … because I just wanted to be part of something different. I was tired of baseball and after that first meet I was like, ‘Yeah, I belong here.’”

Monday has been shaving fast numbers off his times ever since June. He qualified in the 100 free on the lead leg of the 400 free relay with a time of 57.19. The next night he added the 50 free – the most competitive event in the country — with a time of 26.11.

The qualifying standards were 26.19 in the 50 and 57.29 in the 100.

“That’s a huge accomplishment for him,” Sanders said. “To start where he started 14 months ago and be where he is now … is unheard of. It took everything on Mikey’s part, too. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you’re not going to put the work in, you’re not going to gt there.”

Pearson figures Monday will be seeded between 80 and 100 among the 120 swimmers in his two events. Nearly 1,200 swimmers from more than 130 YMCAs across the country are competing in the meet.

He swims the 50 on Tuesday and the 100 on Friday. The top 24 qualifiers make the finals.

The competition was stiff in Knoxville, but promises to be even stronger in Indy in an even faster pool. That’s just fine with Monday. It might even spur him to the 56 he wanted last week in the 100.

“When I’m around fast people I just want to be one of them; it drives me to be faster,” he said. “That’s the thing about this weekend: It was, oh my goodness, the fastest meet I’ve ever been to; I want to be one of these guys who are out there getting crazy fast times. I want to go as fast as the people who are the best in the meet.

“My goal is to make the finals, to be able to swim that night. The top 24, if I got that, I’d be just ecstatic.”

Mikey Monday isn’t the only swimmer with Calhoun County Y ties looking to perform on the big stage in the coming weeks.

Bob Couch will be competing in five events at the World Masters Championships in Montreal. He’ll swim the 100, 200 and 800 freestyle and 200 and 400 individual medley. It will be his second appearance in the World Championships. His last trip was eight years ago at Stanford.

Al Muskewitz is Content Editor/Senior Writer of East Alabama Sports Today. He can be reached at musky@wrightmediacorp.com and followed on Twitter @easportstoday1.

Check out the East Alabama Sports Today Facebook page for a cool video of one of Monday’s training drills.

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