Most athletes who compete on the varsity level as freshmen and sophomores are expected to learn and get better.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Coaches hope the athletes won't be overwhelmed by the pressure while competing against more seasoned opponents.
Evans High School swimmer C.J. Hendry has not only survived competing as a sophomore; she has become one of the state's best swimmers.
Hendry, who is unbeaten this year, will be a serious threat to win a state title at the Feb. 11-12 meet at Westminster of Atlanta.
"I'm just having a lot of fun right now," she said. "I think it would be really cool to win a state title, but I haven't really thought about it that much."
While most swim coaches around the state probably know about Hendry from swimming year-round with the Aiken-Augusta Swim League, the ones who didn't turned their heads after her performance at the Panther Pack Invitational on Jan. 15.
Hendry was the only swimmer from Columbia County to win an event at the area's biggest meet, which featured more than 15 schools from around the state. Hendry won both the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard backstroke.
"I try not to specialize in anything and try to be good in everything and not specialize in one stroke," she said.
Hendry has posted state qualifying times in five events and is in the top 10 in Class-AAAA in each event she's qualified in.
The sophomore has qualified in the 200 IM, the 500 freestyle, the 200 free, the 100 back and the 100 butterfly. Her time in the 200 IM is third best in AAAA and her 100 fly time is second best in AAAA and fifth best in the state.
But Hendry's best event is the 100 back, where she has the second-best time in the state in any classification this year. She will compete in the 100 back and 100 fly at the state meet, where swimmers can compete in only two individual events and two relays.
The biggest obstacle to Hendry winning a state title will be Marist freshman Kathleen Hersey, the only girl in AAAA to swim faster than Hendry this year in the 100 back and the 100 fly.
Hendry has competed against Hersey at year-round competitions often and knows it will be tough to beat her.
"She's real good and really fast," Hendry said. "I'm very familiar with her."
Swimming against competitors as strong or even stronger than Hersey in year-round swimming has turned Hendry into the swimmer she is today.
"Year-round swimming is so much different than high school," she said. "Year-round swimming is taken so much more seriously, and competition is so much harder.
"High school swimming is more about your team, and that is fun. Year-round is more individual-oriented."
Swimming in the ASL has provided Hendry a chance to become close with most of her Evans teammates.
"We swim together every day, so we are very close as a team at Evans," Hendry said about the majority of the Knights' best swimmers, who are all sophomores. "It is going to be a lot of fun moving up with these guys. We talk all the time and are so close and train together."
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