Katherine Huff is usually younger than anyone else in the pool at high school swim meets.
It is typically the upperclassmen, however, who have to play catch-up.
Huff, a Lakeside freshman, blew past the competition at the Class AAAA state meet earlier this month, winning the girls 100-meter freestyle and 100-meter backstroke. She beat seniors in both events.
"She was dogging and beating people left and right who were 18 years old," Lakeside swimming coach Andrew Bauer said. "She's going to be dangerous here in about four years."
The 14-year-old Huff's times earned her All-American status. She qualified for state in five events but was allowed to swim in only two because of meet rules. Huff held the state's top times in the freestyle and the backstroke, so the decision was an easy one.
Her time in the backstroke (56.25) was nearly two seconds faster than her closest competitor, St. Pius X senior Emily Kintz (58.09). In the freestyle, Huff topped another St. Pius senior, Heather O'Toole.
"I always wanted to win state. That's something I looked for," Huff said. "But I did not think it would happen. It was exciting for it to happen and for all my hard work to pay off in that meet."
Huff swims year-round for the Aiken-Augusta Swim League. Her commitment requires eight practices each week: twice each week before school for an hour and 15 minutes, every weekday after school for 21/2 hours, and a three-hour practice on Saturdays. Before big meets, such as the Class AAAA meet and the upcoming National Club Swimming Association Junior Nationals in Orlando, Fla., the practice load lightens to six sessions each week.
Huff has been keeping that schedule for two years. She started swimming in the summer league when she was 7, and with the area league when she was 9.
She said the schedule takes some getting used to and can become overwhelming when schoolwork is mixed in.
"It's all worth it in the end," she said. "When you go to a big event and do well, it's worth it."
Huff swam the same events at the Class AAAA meet as one of her friends, Lakeside senior Eric Chiu.
Chiu, a Georgia Tech signee, also won both events and qualified as an All-American. He and Huff have swum together the past few years, with the more experienced swimmer helping out the younger one.
"He's always been there," Huff said. "It's nice to have him to look up to."
Huff's two medals at state are only a warm-up, she said. The Georgia Age Group Swimming Championships start Friday at the Augusta Aquatics Center. The age group sectionals are after that, followed by the Junior Nationals, held March 17-21 in Orlando, Fla.
Huff competed last year and said she finished about 50th. She will be going up against the country's top swimmers in her age group.
But, as she proved at the Class AAAA meet, Huff doesn't back down easily.
"This is just kind of a step," Huff said of her state medals. "It's going to give me confidence."
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