By Gene Phelps
Tupelo’s Cris Roberts, the state high school record holder in the 100-yard butterfly, signed an NCAA national letter of intent Tuesday to swim for Western Kentucky University.
Roberts won the butterfly earlier this month in the MHSAA State Swim Championships at the Tupelo Aquatic Center. Her record time was 56.26 seconds.
She won the 100-yard backstroke in 59.60 seconds and holds the class record with a 58.98 clocking in her 2013 win at Delta State. She was also a member of the Lady Wave’s champion 400-yard freestyle relay team of Mattie Hughes, Evans Sanders and Walker Fortenberry.
“She’s a solid swimmer,” Tupelo coach Lucas Smith said. “She found a way to get better each season. She finished strong this season, which helped her get to Western Kentucky.”
Roberts said she was impressed with WKU’s program during her official visit to the campus in Bowling Green, Ky.
“They’ve got a great team and great facilities,” she said. “I’d been thinking about going there a long time. They’re a smaller D-I program, but they’ve had some fast swimmers.”
Former WKU swimmer Claire Donahue won a gold medal in the 2012 Olympics and two golds in the Pan American Games in 2011.
Smith believes Roberts will grow as a swimmer in the Hilltoppers’ program.
“They can take you and make you come out a better swimmer,” he said.
Added Roberts, “Their emphasis is on making you a better swimmer.”
WKU’s coach is Bruce Marchionda, who has coached 30-plus years, 13 with the Hilltoppers. He was recently named to the USA Swim staff for the World Championships.
Tupelo’s girls team finished second overall at state, but won championships the previous three seasons.
“Everybody did their best times (this season),” Roberts said. “You couldn’t have asked for anything more. I’ve always had my best times during the high school swim season.”
Roberts is the fourth NCAA Division I swim signee for Tupelo’s program in the last five years: the late John Servati, Alabama; Hannah Wilson, Florida State and Bailey Scott, Alabama.