By TONY STINNETT, Courier Sports Editor
For a child who didn't like water, Woodbury's Ben McCrary has made a splash in the pool.
McCrary has signed a national letter-of-intent to swim collegiately at Carson-Newman College.
Not bad for a guy who wanted nothing to do with water as a child.
"I was actually forced into swimming by my mom (Beth McCrary) and (current swim coach) Brett Hoehn because I was scared of the water," Ben McCrary said. "I would scream in the bath tub. They started me swimming at 6-1/2 to help me get over my fear of water."
Once McCrary overcame panic, he developed into one of the top swimmers in the Southeast and ultimately earned a college scholarship. McCrary specializes in the butterfly, backstroke and freestyle events.
Carson-Newman Head Swim Coach Paige McCord said McCrary's versatility was an asset during the recruiting process and that he was an athlete she wanted in her program.
"He is a very strong backstroke and fly specialist, and he is very developed in the free," McCord said. "To have three strong strokes is an advantage for any athlete. He is very versatile. Times speak for itself and everyone is fairly evaluated. (McCrary) was a top athlete we would want on our team."
McCrary is home-schooled through Aaron Academy. He swam as a member of Riverdale Rapids Club team, and swimming meets with Riverdale High School. Hoehn is McCord's personal swimming coach with Rapids. Riverdale Head Coach Lamar Davis agreed to allow McCrary to also swim with the Warriors swim team. McCrary's points did not count toward the team but it did provide him with an opportunity to compete at the high school level.
"I am very fortunate that I was able to swim with Riverdale, I really am," McCrary said. "(Hoehn and Davis) have done a lot for me. Swimming the high school meets and doing the practices helped me a lot and then competition for club is so much higher than even the high school meets."
McCrary was visiting colleges when he received an offer from McCord to consider Carson-Newman. Upon visiting the east Tennessee school, the recruiting process ended for McCrary.
"Signing with Carson-Newman was pretty awesome," McCrary said. "I was visiting other colleges when they contacted me. Once I went there, I was even more excited. I fit in there very well. I liked everything about it."
McCrary, the son of Bill and Beth McCrary, plans to major in pre-physical therapy at Carson-Newman. He qualified for the Southeastern Championship meet in each year of high school, and qualified for age-group sectionals and senior sectionals. He has been named to the All-Star team for Southeastern swimming and served as an athlete representative for three years.
McCrary will be part of a building process at Carson-Newman, which is in its inaugural season as a collegiate swim program. McCrary was one of four signees in the program's second signing class.
"Recruiting is essential in building a program," said McCord, who is assisted by her husband, U.S. Army Capt. Daniel McCord. "My husband and I coach together and we have a core philosophy of building champions in and out of the water. We want student-athletes who do the right thing, are in class on time, treat others with respect, follow the Golden Rule and get it done in the pool, as well. It is very important we recruit that way. It doesn't matter if you are a champion in the water if you aren't a champion in other areas."
McCrary said he was never concerned that being home-schooled would hamper his college opportunities.
"I'm one of those people that believe if it is meant to happen it will happen," McCrary said. "If I did everything I could it would work out. I did get worried for awhile because it took awhile for colleges to contact me."
Beth McCrary began working to get Ben's information out to college coaches early in the process.
"When Ben was 12 he won the Southern Championship for the 1,000 (free) so I got to looking at times and stuff," Beth said. "Based on his time, if he proceeded the way we thought he would then we thought he could swim in college so I started planning ahead for that."
Beth began researching how to get Ben's name out to coaches and how the recruiting process worked. She also looked into new laws allowing home-school students to participate with high school teams.
"There are a lot of rules involved as a home-schooled student so you have to familiarize yourself with the rules," Beth said. "We just kind of worked toward making it happen if we could. I wanted to make sure we had the state taken care of and that he was entered into state and regional meets so he could been seen."
Ben's ability took care of the rest, ultimately landing him a scholarship to swim for Carson-Newman.