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Coker has high expectations this swim season

In what seems his natural habitat, Anderson County High School’s Avery Coker practices at the University of Tennessee Aquatic Center as the 2022-2023 swim season prepares to get underway. Coker is also a member of the USA Swimming and competed other swimmers as old as 22 while participating in the 15-and-ups class.
Like all swimmers at Anderson County High School, Avery Coker is preparing for the upcoming high school season.

But his expectations and goals may be loftier than most of his teammates.

The Mavericks and Lady Mavericks began practicing last week and Coker is coming off an abbreviated break after a big summer with USA Swimming, a year-round program. He made some monumental accomplishments in a relatively short time last.

Coker, a sophomore at ACHS, celebrated his 15th birthday in July. After his birthday he moved up in age class. As a swimmer in the 15-and-over age class, Coker began swimming against college swimmers --- and not just swimming --- but competing and winning.

“He went to Senior Zones in West Virginia and he had a tremendous meet,” said ACHS coach Stephanie Coker, who is also Avery’s mother.

“He was only seeded to make the finals in one event and he made it to the finals in almost every event he swam.

“He turned 15 in July and began swimming in 15-and-ups and he was competing against 22-year olds. He’s only been in year-round swimming since he was in the sixth grade. He made five or six cut times after he turned 15.”

While Avery, a former basketball player, loves to compete, he said that every meet is an opportunity to learn.

“Every meet is a learning experience,” he said.

“We had a couple of meets and we went to West Virginia for the zones championships and it was held at a really nice pool and it was super fun.

“There were college kids there and it was really cool to see the college kids and see how they prepared for a race. Every meet, no matter how you do, is a learning experience.”

Avery is not the only accomplished swimmer in the Coker Family. His sister, Ila, competes for the Lady Mavericks and was the first female swimmer to reach the Tennessee High School State Championships. She’s a senior this year and she’s seeking another trip to state.

And there’s sibling rivalry between Ila and Avery. Or at least they used to be.

“They do push each other, but they’re also each other’s biggest cheerleaders,” Stephanie Coker said.

“When they were younger, the coaches couldn’t have them swimming together in the same lanes, because they were always pushing each other under the water.”

Avery said those days are over.

“We drive to and from practice together and we talk about things,” he said.

“We talk about swimming and we talk about other things. Honestly, it’s a friendship.”

While competing in multiple events is far from rare, Avery has to be one of the busiest swimmers in the Volunteer State on meet days.

He swims in the 50 free, 100 free, 200 free, 100 butterfly, 100 backstroke and the 200 individual medley.

After a big summer in the pool, Avery is looking forward to the high school season.

“I look forward to racing against my friends. My favorite events are the 100 free and the 100 butterfly,” Avery said.

“I have some goal times I’d like to meet.”