Sam Tate started swimming at the age of four when his parents put him in a summer league. However, the elder Maryville’s love for the sport wasn’t exactly instantaneous.
“My dad was the coach, so I was pushed into the swim team at a young age,” Tate said. “It was definitely something I grew up in. Now I couldn’t imagine not going to train. “
Luckily for Tate, he won’t have to contemplate his future without swimming after recently signing a national letter of intent to pursue his athletic career at Berry College in Georgia.
This feat did not surprise Maryville coach Jenna Johnson, who said she immediately saw in Tate the potential to compete beyond high school.
“Ever since I met Sam I felt like he was college material,” Johnson said. “He’s a fierce competitor, and he will always take it to the next level.”
Tate grew up with a lot of competition to push him. He had two older brothers who swam for Maryville before he and his twin brother, Wes, joined the team in 2018.
Tate and her siblings have been instrumental in helping Maryville make substantial progress as a program. At this season’s TISCA State meet, Maryville placed second behind Baylor – the longtime Chattanooga powerhouse – for the third consecutive time.
The Maryville boys were fourth with 148 points, up from 10th place a year ago.
“My parents pushed us (into sports) because it helps you work on life skills, like hard work and dedication,” Tate said. “They gave us a little nudge at first, and then we kind of took it from there.”
Individually, Tate was seventh at state level in the men’s 200-meter medley (1: 55.26) and eighth in the 100 breaststroke (58.38).
He also swam in the Rebels’ 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle relay teams, both of which placed fourth.
“I love to swim relays with my teammates,” said Tate. “I like being able to swim not only with my guys, but for my guys. (When I swim relays), I don’t do that for myself, I do it for my team. ”
This season was unlike any other due to the pandemic. The Rebels did not have access to the Allan Jones Aquatic Center at the University of Tennessee as usual, so many of their meetings were held in Alcoa or Kingston.
The state meet was also different – it was hosted by four separate venues across Tennessee, which produced a much more tame atmosphere than is typical for this stage of the competition.
Johnson said Tate’s positivity and upbeat demeanor were even more valuable given the unique circumstances surrounding the season.
“He’s just one of those kids who would do anything to move the team forward,” Johnson said. “He’s so funny and unique. I think he’s going to bring a lot to any team he’s on. “
Tate attributed the growth of Maryville as a program to the bonds formed between the rebels.
“It’s definitely the relationships swimmers build with each other,” Tate said. “When they swim they feel like they’re not just swimming for themselves – they are swimming for the team, and I think that really helps you get involved in it and get better in the water. “
As to why Tate chose Berry, he said his love for the campus and the coach were selling points for the program.
“I felt like that was what would make me happy and that it would be a good fit for me,” Tate said. “It means a lot – I love the sport of swimming. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am right now without my teammates and my coaches.”
“I feel like the sky is the limit for him,” Johnson added. “At Berry College, he will eventually become a huge leader on this team. He’s going to shine, and I think he’s going to keep going faster and faster. “