Souther siblings dominating the pool
Parkwood High sophomore Lexi Souther likes the feeling of flying, which is not unusual. It’s her method of doing so that stands out.
When Souther flies, she’s not actually leaving the ground. All the she needs is her swimwear and a lane in a pool, where she glides from one wall to the next, her body continually breaking the surface tension as it becomes a machine of moving parts capable of, well, flying.
“It just feels so cool to fly across the water,” Lexi said when describing why she’s hooked on swimming. “To slide through the water, when you get really into it, it’s really, really powerful. I just really like how it feels to get up on top of the water and race as fast as you can possibly go.”
Her competitive swimming times suggest few have experienced the sensation Lexi describes. Her language, though, is perfectly understood within her whole family.
Lexi and her older brother, Sam, are among the best swimmers in Union County. In fact, Sam was voted as boys swimmer of the year in the Rocky River Conference and Lexi was voted as the league’s girls swimmer of the year.
The kicker: They attend different schools.
Sam is a junior at Central Academy of Technology and Arts after having his name drawn in the lottery. The two swam in different leagues last year prior to the N.C. High School Athletic Association realignment that put CATA and Parkwood in the same league.
“Winning that did surprise me a little bit this year,” Sam said. “What surprised me even more was that we both got it. It’s not as common for a sophomore to win, so I was really, really happy for Lexi when she got it as well.”
The Southers are year-round swimmers and have been since they were kids. Their mom, Carolyn, was a collegiate swimmer at Auburn in the 1980s and was inducted into the school’s Wall of Fame in 2002.
The gene obviously passed down. Both Sam and Lexi will compete in the 1A/2A West Regional on Saturday. The goal is to do well enough there to qualify for the 1A/2A state championship Feb. 6 in Raleigh.
It would be a return trip for both, if that happens. Last year Sam was 14th overall and sixth in the consolation final of the 200-yard freestyle and also took 15th in the 500 freestyle. Lexi, who swam in the 3A state meet for the Rebels last year, was eighth in the 100 butterfly and fifth in the 100 backstroke.
But while the two speak the same swimming language, the dialect is different. Sam’s favorite stroke is the butterfly, perhaps the most complicated of the four strokes.
“It’s one of the harder strokes to swim and most people can’t do over a 200,” Sam said. “That’s what gives year-round swimmers an advantage, especially if they love doing it. And it does take a lot in order to be a year-round swimmer, but if you really enjoy it, I would definitely recommend it. If you enjoy anything I would recommend you put some time into it.”
Lexi, as her fifth-place finish last year might suggest, is best in the backstroke. It’s an event she loves and one she often studies, finding swimmers who have faster times than her and watching their movements in the water.
“It’s mainly an underwater race, so the better you are at walls, the better you race,” said Lexi, who is now a two-time conference swimmer of the year. “Anyone can swim, but it’s the little details that shoot you forward or hold you back.”
Swimming year-round means practicing on Saturdays, and often waking up at 4 a.m. on Fridays to make a 5 a.m. practice. But it can often be the difference in securing a college scholarship, something for which Lexi in particular is striving.
It can also be the difference in, say, swimming a few milliseconds faster, which in turn could be the deciding factor of winning a state title — or not making the podium altogether.
“My biggest goal this season is to get more people into states, not just me,” Sam said of the upcoming meets. “I can’t say I am going to win it, but you should try to set your goals as high as possible.”
Lexi is following that advice.
“I definitely want to place in the top five at states, but my ultimate goal is to win an event,” she said. “I know it’s going to be a challenge, but I’m ready for it.”