“It’s just straight into the cold water,” said Rhodes Pharr, a St. Andrews junior, year-round swimmer, and state champion. The 17-year-old began swimming year-round when he was only eight years old. Since 2017, Pharr has competed in three state championships with the Saints.
Pharr swims for school in the fall, when the Mississippi High School Athletics Association (MSHAA) has its season. That season lasts from August until October. The Mississippi Makos, however, swim year-round and has two seasons; a long course and a short course.
Pharr is the son of David and Michelle Petro Pharr. He grew up in Eastover with his 10-year-old sister, Elle. Aside from swimming, Pharr has his second degree blackbelt in Taekwondo.
“We actually just finished our short course season in early March, where we had the state championship and sectionals. So right now I’m not having any meets.”
Short course and long course refer to the lengths of races held during that season. A short course season consists of practicing and contesting in a 25 meter pool. The swimmers still swim 50 meters, but the short course pools require them to make a “flip turn,” off of the wall half way through the race. The long course season requires swimmers to practice and contest in 50 meter pools.
“We are in the long course season,” said Brian Ware, coach of the Mississippi Makos.
This season, Ware says they are focusing on technique. They are filming the swimmers above and underwater.
“We are always working on technique. Swimmers are always trying to find that extra edge.
“Its amazing how small an improvement be, in what it can change as far as his speed.
“Its kind of like a golf swing, if your timings off a little it can change your whole speed.”
Pharr is still having practices. But at the height of covid, he wasn’t allowed to swim with his team. He had to learn how to practice on his own.
“Since we couldn’t go to practice as a team, I would swim in a small pool at home. I would attach a band to a chair and myself then just swim in place,” said Pharr.
Coronavirus has also affected the swim meets.
“We’ve had some virtual meets,” said Ware. “Not having those big meets has been hard on him.”
Virtual meets consist of breaking up a meeting of some thousand swimmers into around six meets, that all run at the same time. The times are sent to a central location, compared, and then the races are called.
coach of the Saints swim team, Thatch Sheppard, coaches Pharr while he swims for the school team.
“I just finished my 12th year as head coach of the St. Andrew’s swim team and Rhodes, currently a junior, has been on the team since the seventh grade, so we have had the last five seasons together. He has played an increasingly more important role in each season and was instrumental in three state championships 2017, 2019 and 2020. And two state runner-up finishes in 2016 and 2018.
“This past season he led the team in scoring and was our fastest swimmer on our team in every individual event he swam. At the most recent state championship, October 2020, Rhodes won both of his individual events, the 200 freestyle and 100 yard breaststroke, setting the Saints team record in the breaststroke this year, while also being instrumental in a gold medal relay finish and silver medal relay finish.
“This season earned him a spot on the Clarion-Ledger First Team All-State squad and also a USA Today High School Swimming Sports Award recognition.”
Pharr has made improvements this year in the individual medley (IM) race. The IM is a race where an individual swims all four of the four swim techniques: freestyle, butterfly, breaststroke and backstroke.
“Rhodes has gotten a lot physically stronger. He’s made a huge improvement on his butterfly.”
Coach Ware has seen Pharr grow as a swimmer for three years on the Makos.
The next event the Makos are looking forward to will be the state meet in Tupelo this July.
Swimming just happened to be the most natural of the sports Pharr played.
“Really I used to play a lot of sports like soccer, baseball, tennis, basketball, and football. Then, I narrowed it down to tennis basketball and swimming. And I played basketball up until ninth grade. But I really chose swimming because that was my best sport.”
“I have really grown to love it over the years. I think a lot of that is because I swim with my friends. Its stress relieving. And I still do play tennis but its just for fun more than anything else.”
Pharr swims almost everyday and anytime of day.
“It’s just straight into the cold water. Thats just the way it is. Its not always easy to do that in the morning but it really gets you better.”
David Pharr, his father, says swimming was the most natural for him.
“its a great sport for lifelong physical and character development, but its not easy.”
“It took a while for me to appreciate it. His mother was a swimmer growing up, she was good at the breast stroke, like him. That’s probably where he gets the genes from.”
Pharr says he’s stuck with swimming because its a social event. Making life long friends through the pool has helped in more ways than just to win championships.