08/08/07 — Mason Chenier gives up on soccer to focus on swimming

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Mason Chenier gives up on soccer to focus on swimming

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on August 8, 2007 1:48 PM

Mason Chenier delivered the news with ease.

No more soccer.

His Eastern Wayne teammates sat silently and a few seemed stunned as the announcement felt like a slide tackle from behind. Chenier confessed he'd miss the endurance-challenging sport, but he realizes he also faces a promising future in the pool.

Chenier proved it this past weekend during the Southern Zone Age Group Swimming Championships at the University of Houston in Texas. A rising junior, Chenier placed third in the 50-meter freestyle, fourth in the 100-meter free and swam the opening leg on the fourth-place 200-meter free relay. The strong contributions helped the North Carolina Zone Team claim top-scoring honors in the boys' team portion of the four-day event.

Overall, North Carolina -- boys and girls combined -- ended up tied with Georgia for third place in the 13-team competition.

"Soccer is something I love to do, and is a fun sport to get out and play," said Chenier. "But with me doing so well in swimming, I can't afford any distractions at this point. It was a great meet

"The whole team atmosphere was great and something we really don't get here because the team is so small. It was a lot of fun."

Chenier and Bailey Upchurch, a rising sophomore, compete on the Goldsboro Family Y Sharks team. Part of the 48-member North Carolina team, each swimmer was selected based on competition times and a points system.

"It's a best-of-the-best type meet where the top swimmers are taken from each state's state meet," said Sharks coach Alex Black. "Some states choose their teams differently, while North Carolina does it off a point system of how you perform in the state meet."

Black said Chenier qualified with a top-16 reportable time, while Upchurch earned a spot through points tabulation and the number of applicants available.

Each swimmer participated in four individual events plus team relays.

Chenier shaved 15-hundredths of a second from the morning to evening session in the 50 free. He reduced his morning time 12-hundredths of a second to advance as the No. 8 seed for the finals.

"I was really pleased with both of the swims," said Chenier. "I wanted to be a little faster in the 50, but I dropped time so I'm not complaining."

Nearly an hour after completing the 50, Chenier returned to the pool for the 200 free relay. He swam 24.04 seconds on the opening leg, which qualified him for the U.S. Open in late November in Atlanta.

Black added the Open is a selection meet for the United States world short-course championship team.

"This has really wet Mason's whistle," laughed Black.

Chenier has fully recovered from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury he suffered during soccer last fall. Doctors attached the ACL to his right hamstring tendons.

"It hasn't really affected my training at all," said Chenier.

Upchurch, meanwhile, swam several events and posted either "A" or "AA" standard times. A state qualifier on the N.C. High School Athletic Association scene, Upchurch didn't make the finals, but gained valuable experience that should help her during the winter.

It was the first time Black had two swimmers from the Sharks participate in the Zone championships.