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Clawson sets personal best during regional meet

After being put on the shelf by Winter Storm Jonas, Kaleb Clawson made some noise last week for the Blue Nation.
The lone member of the Unicoi County High School swim team requalified for 100-butterfly competition on Monday, Jan. 25, at the Kingsport Aquatic Center during the Northeast Tennessee Regional Swim Competition. Clawson earned seventh place in the event out of 26 swimmers, bumping up his previous performance to re-punch a bid to state. The senior also added a ninth place finish in the 50-freestyle out of nearly 50 swimmers, moving himself up four levels compared to last year’s meet.
The extra days of training due to weather helped his preparation, according to the senior.
“I hate that regionals were cancelled on Saturday for snow,” Clawson said, “but it gave me a couple of extra days for training. I was extremely excited to make my state qualifications again, especially at regionals. You never know when you’re going to have a good day or an off day at swim competitions, but I’m really glad that regionals went well.”
UCHS head coach Jonathan Kenney said the atmosphere in Sullivan County helped his senior swimmer.
“I’m really pleased with the way Kaleb swam,” Kenney said. “He had a personal best time in the 50-free and another state qualifying time in the 100-fly. It says a lot about his mindset to be able to come into the regional meet and swim great times. I think the atmosphere had a lot to do with that. It’s easy to get excited with all the people in the stands cheering and all the competitors in the pool.”
Clawson will compete in the Tennessee Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association (TISCA) state competition on Friday, Feb. 12, at the Centennial Sportsplex in Nashville.
The experience this season, after an intense offseason of practice, has the senior primed to make some noise.
“I will continue to train hard for the state competition,” Clawson said. “I’m really excited to be going to state in my first year of swim because this will be a great learning experience for me and will help me for my future swim competitions. There will be some tough competition with swimmers who have many more years worth of training than I have, but I am going to state with an open mind to just have fun and do the best I can.”
The change of the guard with Clawson representing UCHS can only help the swim team, Kenney said.
“I hope that it helps to build the program” he added. “We went from having 15 swimmers last year to just Kaleb this year, but he just proves that hard work pays off. I think Kaleb competing at the state meet is important for the swim program because it gets us some recognition at the school. UCHS couldn’t ask for a better ambassador for the swim program than Kaleb.”
The support from his coaches has been the key component of the success, Kaleb said. Along with Kenney, the senior is part of the Barracudas Swim Team, based out of Johnson City, which is led by coach Chris Coraggio.
“I have some great coaches,” Clawson said of Kenney and Coraggio. “They support me and I really appreciate everything they have done for me. I couldn’t have done it without them.”