Most people take to the pool this time of year in an attempt to cool off and soak up the sun.
But for Metter’s Mary Gen Williams, a day at the pool means diving into competition instead of relaxation.
Williams, 13, is a member of the Savannah Swim Team and will join her teammates today and Sunday as they compete in a meet hosted by the Golden Isles Swim Team in Brunswick.
“This is a big meet for us,” Williams said. “The Georgia Tech state meet is coming up. You’ve got the best of the best there. I’ve never made it before and it would mean so much to me to be able to do that.”
Williams said she is just milliseconds off of the necessary time required to qualify for state in the 100-meter breaststroke. However, she is also as well-rounded as any swimmer in the pool.
She began swimming around the age of six and — after falling in love with days spent in her family’s pool — found a competitive edge by watching the Olympics. Williams began to swim competitively in mostly 50-meter freestyle sprint races. She did well in that regard, but over the past year has shifted to longer races, now swimming in the 200, 400 and 500-meter freestyles, the 50, 100 and 200-meter breast stroke and the 100 and 200-meter individual medley.
“I’ll swim three to five events, depending on what the meet offers,” Williams said. “I have to concentrate on pacing myself in each race and it definitely takes all of the practice and training to be able to compete well in each event.”
The mental and physical toughness to take on that workload is immense. Ironically, Williams’ intensity and durability in the pool comes in part from her experience working in the dirt.
When not swimming, WIlliams can often be found tending to her family’s flower farming business. The family farm produces a wide range of flowers that are cultivated and shipped to florists for various arrangements and - despite her young age — Williams has already started to lend a helping hand.
Her two wildly different endeavors seem to combine to make up a hard worker, whether on land or in the water.
“Mary Gen is a great competitor,” Savannah Swim coach CJay Wiley said. “She doesn’t miss practices and I never have to tell her to swim hard. She’s always ready to go. I think she lives a life where she is always moving - always finding something to do. It gives her a great work ethic.”
Williams’ unique work and hobbies have also led to a unique school life.
Currently, WIlliams is excelling as a student in the Georgia Cyber Academy. The GCA is a program that offers the standard K-12 curriculum approved for use in Georgia public schools and taught to students via online and phone resources.
The program holds participants to all of the requirements and testing standards of an in-school experience while allowing kids — and their parents — to have a day to day schedule that keeps them around home and family.
“My parents wanted to keep us at home, so I started in kindergarten and have been going ever since. “I have plenty of friends in public school and GCA also provides accelerated courses that I’m a part of. It’s been a great experience.”
Wiley noted that she also had a few years of experience learning from home and can relate to Williams.
“I think it’s a great,” Wiley said. “She’s getting a good education. Best of all, it allows for her to have flexibility in her life. She can work with her parents and it allows her to attend more practices and meets. I think it has provided her a great opportunity and she’s making the most of it.”