I have been in the broadcasting business for 12 years (man, I'm getting old). Along the way, I have had a chance to meet some terrific people. Listeners have always seemed like friends to me.
Around nine or 10 years ago, I met Keith Hendry and his family - wife Mary, infant son Aaron and daughter C.J. They came to some of my live shows and, like me, they are huge Florida State fans.
Keith had played some Minor League baseball and had coached briefly for the Seminoles. Back then, C.J., who was no more than 10 years old, was an avid swimmer. I remember how proud Keith and Mary were of her. Every time I saw Keith he had an update on C.J.'s budding swimming career. Even back then, her goal was to one day swim in college, and FSU was certainly her first choice.
As C.J. got older, it became apparent that her swimming hobby was more than just something to occupy her afternoons and weekends. She had gotten very good over the years. By the time she closed out her swimming career at Evans High School, C.J. had become one of the most decorated swimmers in Columbia County history.
She was the Knights' team MVP all four years. She was a 16-time Georgia state All-Star. In her senior season, she was the state champion in the 100-meter backstroke, and she placed third in the 200-meter freestyle. She was also a two-time junior national team finalist.
To no one's surprise, college coaches came calling. She had offers from a number of big programs. Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech both had offers on the table, but C.J. held out. She wanted to swim for the team she'd grown up rooting for, Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla.
When FSU coach Neil Harper made the Hendrys an offer, well, the other schools were out of luck. C.J. was headed for the Sunshine State.
If her first month in Tallahassee is any indication, C.J. is headed for big things in her college swimming career.
Earlier this month, the Seminoles had their annual swimming pentathlon. It is basically an intrasquad swim meet that gives the coaches a feel for the team.
The coaching staff knew C.J. was a good swimmer, and they knew she was a great kid from a terrific family. But there is no way they could have envisioned the freshman having the type of performance she turned in during the pentathlon.
Despite being on campus for a little more than a month and having to battle nearly 30 other swimmers, C.J. stole the show. She won the 200-meter freestyle with a Florida State pentathlon record time of 1:52.66.
And the record she broke? It was held by two-time All-American Romy Altmann.
She also posted the top time in the 100-meter backstroke at 58.29.
When the times from all the events had been calculated, C.J. was the overall pentathlon winner.
That's an incredible feat for a freshman, and even more impressive when you consider that FSU has a returning All-American in senior Lauren Sparg.
Did all this early success surprise C.J.?
"Absolutely. I mean, I have confidence, but I was so nervous. I wanted to do well so bad with this being our first event," she said.
When asked whether this performance might cause her to adjust her first-year goals, she had a response that showed her maturity.
"Not really. I just want to work hard and perform as best I can. This certainly gives me more confidence, but I can't let it allow me to be satisfied. I just have to continue to take things one meet at a time," she said.
One thing C.J. has done is give her family another reason to beam with pride. It is not every day that a freshman swimmer earns top billing on the athletic Web site at a football-crazy school like FSU.
When C.J.'s performance was highlighted on the site, her parents could hardly contain their joy.
I must admit I was touched a bit myself. I feel like I've watched her grow up in a sense.
That little girl has blossomed into a beautiful young woman, and she is living out a dream of swimming at FSU.
It is hard to even type this story without a big smile on my face, so I can only imagine what her parents are going through.
C.J., keep up the good work. You have plenty of people in your hometown cheering you on.
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