Paula Merritt / The Meridian Star
Swimming gracefully with no competition in site, Natchez native Rita Tebbetts made her way up and down the pool five times Saturday, earning five golds at the State Games of Mississippi Masters Swimming competition.
Tebbetts' lack of competition is due to her age –– at 73, it's just hard to find anyone to swim against.
“I always come away with golds here because nobody competes in my age group,” Tebbetts said. “But it's fun anyways, I guess I could still lose if I did something wrong.”
The empty field of swimmers does not hinder Tebbetts' performance, as she set State Games records in both the 50-meter back stroke and 100-meter IM.
Tebbetts first started swimming laps at the age of 48 to help cope with the loss of her late-husband, Wally Jones, who died of a heart attack.
While taking her children to swim practice, she would listen in on their instruction, keeping mental notes and using them while swimming laps.
“It's about staying fit basically,” Tebbets said. “It's relaxing too, just really relaxing.”
In her fourth State Games, Tebbets said she has received a tremendous amount of support from her husband, Harvey Tebbetts, as well as from people in the Natchez community. Tebbetts also hopes to have more competition in next year's games as she has no plans of slowing down.
“I'm going to keep coming to the Mississippi Games.” Tebbetts said. “I might stop doing some of the national games because of the travel, but I hope to continue to keep on swimming here.”