Triston Little

West Jones graduate Triston Little had made huge strides in the pool from a heart ailment diagnosed as a child to racking up a plethora of medals and all-state nods in high school. He will swim in college at Henderson State University in Arkansas. (Photo by Brad Crowe)

Decorated West Jones swimmer defies odds, sets sights on Olympic trials

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This time of year, swimming becomes many locals’ favorite way to beat the heat. For West Jones graduate Triston Little and his family, however, swimming has helped them beat something much, much bigger. 

Little, son of Dr. Paul Little and Misty Little, trains at the natatorium in Laurel for four hours each day — two in the morning and two in the afternoon. He has been training and competing since he was 6 years old. Competing, however, was not always his motivation to swim. In the beginning, swimming was the response to adversity Little faced with his health. 

“I actually have a heart problem called supraventricular tachycardia,” Little said. “I (began swimming) at the time when I was first diagnosed with it. Swimming was really just for exercise, but it became a lot more than that.” 

Supraventricular tachycardia is an abnormally fast heart rate resulting from irregular electrical activity in the upper chambers of the heart. Little’s mother said the problem was difficult to diagnose when he was a toddler because the symptoms were sporadic, which made it difficult to catch on an electrocardiogram or an EKG. Amidst all the uncertainty, all the family could do was trust the only one who had any control over the situation. 

“We put Triston’s condition in the hands of God,” Misty Little said. “We bathed him in prayer at our church and several others put him on their permanent prayer lists.” 

What the family could control was their son’s diet and exercise habits to make sure he maintained a strong heart. After trying several other sports such as tee-ball and soccer, Little took his first swimming lesson at age 5. After just a few months of training at the natatorium with Warren Holliday, who works with swimmers in the Laurel Swim Association, it became clear that he was learning and improving at a really fast pace.

“At his second three-month interval, Coach Warren came to us and said he was ready to move up to the team,” Misty said. “We had not even finished that interval. He has been in the water ever since.”

At the age of 8, Little was going to state competitions, and by age 10, he was consistently finishing among the Top 5 in his age group. By the time Little reached seventh grade and joined the West Jones swim team, even his coaches were stunned at how advanced of a swimmer he had become.

“Thinking back from my years of swimming, I could not think of many male swimmers who were so dominant at a young age,” said West Jones swim coach Lyndie Lyon. “He was so good that he could dominate in every event and he made a state qualifying time in each event during his six years with our program.” 

By the time he graduated this May, Little had amassed quite the impressive resumé. He owns all but two school records, a state championship, a state record, several silver and bronze state medals and three Clarion-Ledger All-State selections. 

Since creating a profile on the recruiting website Next College Student Athlete in the 10th grade, Little has been contacted more than 1,800 times by colleges interested in adding him to their programs. Little will be attending Henderson State University in Arkansas, where he plans to continue his swimming career and compete on the collegiate level. What began as an activity to combat the adversity of his heart condition has now become a shining example of how life’s toughest obstacles can be overcome with hard work, dedication and faith.

“There have been some bad times and some good times,” recalled Little, “but swimming has helped my heart grow stronger, and it’s only because of God.”

“Through this (obstacle), God showed us his talent,” Misty said. “I hope that one day Triston will be able to use this story and platform to teach others about the goodness of God.”

As he continues to train, Little says one of his new goals is to reach the Olympic trial time in the mile. With his talents and the true heart of a champion, no dream is too big for West Jones’ most decorated swimmer.

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