C.J. Hendry is finally getting a break.
The Evans High School senior has been swimming competitively nonstop since last September when the fall season began for the Aiken-Augusta Swim League. Since then, high school, neighborhood and other organized meets have dominated her calendar. She has competed at almost every level in her age group and now, after participating in one final meet in the first week of August, she's finally hit a one-month break.
"Coach wants us to still work out, but I'm going to stay away from the pool," Hendry said. "This is the only break we'll get all year."
The rest is well-deserved. That most recent meet, which took place at the Georgia Institute of Technology, was the biggest of the year for the swimmer. It was the Southern Zone Championships, where Georgia's top swimmers in each age group competed as a team against teams from 12 states. Alongside Hendry were swimmers Josh Andrews (Evans), Eric Chiu (Lakeside High School) and Katherine Huff (Riverside Middle School).
Hendry stood out as the top swimmer from Columbia County at the meet by swimming in six events and winning three silver medals. The second-place finishes came in the 100-meter butterfly, 200-meter butterfly and 200-meter backstroke.
"The butterfly is the hardest one, but unfortunately it's one of my better events," Hendry said. "While all the other swimmers at practice are usually doing the freestyle, the backstroke or the breaststroke, I'm the one who has to do the butterfly."
All the hard work will most likely pay off for Hendry. Now that the 2006-07 school year is underway, colleges can officially show interest in the talented swimmer.
"C.J. is going into her senior year at high school and looking at colleges so this is really big," Aiken-Augusta Swim League coach Kristin Schlegel said. "It's a really good opportunity for (seniors) to get their names out there and hopefully get some scholarships."
Hendry's success in zone competition did just that. She's already heard from several NCAA Division 1 schools including Florida State, the University of Kentucky, Virginia Tech, the University of Alabama and Texas Christian University. Official visits to campuses across the Southeast will soon start for this semester.
Though much of the college exposure came from the state championships and the zone championships, both meets came on back-to-back weeks. After little rest in between the two competitions, Hendry fully deserved the break she's enjoying. Before taking a month off, however, she capped the 2005-06 season with one event that most people couldn't dream of doing: the 5K swim.
Hendry and hundreds of other swimmers at the zone championships made the trip to Lake Lanier at the end of the meet for the open-water competition.
"There were so many people at the start. It turned swimming into a contact sport," she said. "It was a lot of fun. It's the fourth time I've done it, so it's not that new to me."
The result of the swim was nothing new, either. Hendry's goal was to finish in less than an hour. She swam the five kilometers in 59 minutes, 29 seconds.
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