The junior sprinter emerged as the winner of the 50-yard freestyle in the Class AAAAAA state meet with a time of 21.03 seconds — just edging Lassiter’s Colin Riley, who clocked in at 21.04.
“That was my first high school state championship,” said Harper, the 2013-14 Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Boys Swimmer of the Year, “but being the first state champion for Marietta was really special for me.
“I was interviewed by the school newspaper. I was on a weekly news show for the school. I got a lot of congratulations from different teachers, and I was congratulated by classmates as well.”
Harper managed to win the 50 freestyle despite not being physically prepared. He said he never fully rested during the week of the meet — he was still going full throttle during his practices with the Cobb Stingrays, his year-round team — and he said his body was exhausted from start to finish.
But the excitement and intensity of being in a state final was enough to charge that mentally, and that was all the energy Harper needed to finish first. When he was swimming the 50 at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center, all Harper remembered was attacking the water and “going all out,” hoping that would be good enough.
It turned out to be good enough — by one hundredth of a second.
“I stayed positive and kept my eye on my goal, which is first place,” Harper said.
Staying positive was a piece advice given Harper by his mother, Patty, a former college swimmer at Florida who won a national title in the butterfly and took sixth at the Olympic trials in the same stroke.
“A lot of my success can be traced back to her,” Tyler Harper said of his mother. “I remember she would always tell me to have a positive mindset.”
Exhaustion may have gotten the best of Harper at the state meet by the time he swam the 100 freestyle, but he still performed well enough to finish fifth in 46.21.
Harper was the lone finalist on the Marietta boys team, and his efforts alone put the Blue Devils at 21st overall.
In the county meet, Harper swept the 50 and 100 freestyles, beating Riley in both events. He won the 50 in 21.36, and the 100 in 46.76.
Harper has been a swimmer non-stop since he was 5, and Patty Harper has enjoyed playing the role of supporter than that of a coach. She said her son has taken the initiative in terms of becoming as much of a successful as he wants to be.
“He would listen to me, here or there, but once they get to a certain age, as a parent, you can’t teach or coach your own child,” Patty Harper said. “We’ve been fortunate to have had very good coaching. I am so proud of him. He’s, pretty much, taken this on his own.”
Harper started swimming year-round when he was 6 with the Chattahoochee Gold program before joining the Stingrays at 11.
Harper’s most recent accomplishment with the Stingrays was winning the 50, 100 and 200 freestyles at the Georgia Senior State Championships last December at Georgia Tech. His time of 20.60 in the 50 freestyle was the 56th-best time in the nation in his age group.