Fan's swim passion flamed

In 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked, Mount Rushmore was completed and General Mills introduced Cheerios to the world in the form of CheeriOats.


It also was the final year that Richmond Academy had a swimming program until Fan Hughes came along as a freshman in 2005.

Hughes did more than revive the Musketeers' swim team; she's made them competitive. Now a senior, Hughes will make her fourth consecutive trip to the GHSA State Swimming and Diving Championships on Feb. 13 at Marist Schools in Atlanta.

She will be competing in four events, including her strongest one, the 100-yard breaststroke.

"I definitely expect to at least finish in the top three in the 100 breast," Hughes said. "But I think I can win it because I already know who my toughest competition will be. So I know what I'm up against."

Hughes, who swims year-round for the Aiken-Augusta Swim League, had a decision to make when she was an eighth-grader at Davidson Fine Arts: stay at Davidson, which already had a swim program or join her mother, Caro, who teaches at Richmond Academy.

"I was thinking about staying (at Davidson) but I really wanted to come to Richmond because my brother was there, my mom was there, and I wanted a normal high school life," Hughes said. "Besides, I'm not a big fine arts person. I don't do fine arts at all. I swim."

So while Fan was still at Davidson, Caro began to search for anyone who might be interested in coaching. She soon found her man in Tom Gamblin.

Gamblin sought out the advice of fellow area swim coaches, such as Westside's Jody Grant, to help get the program on its feet. Once the swim team was finally intact, Hughes became an instant standout.

"A lot of times you have to drag things out of her. But when it really matters, she just turns into a monster," said Gamblin, who also teaches Hughes' psychology class.

Hughes recently was the runner-up for the CSRA Girls Swimmer of the Year, but she fell just a few votes shy of her friend, Evans' Haley Shepherd.

Hughes has offers to swim from Boston College, Emory, and William & Mary. She has yet to commit, though she says she is leaning toward Boston College.

For now, she has her sights set on ending her high school career with Richmond Academy's first swimming state title since before World War II.

"It would mean a lot," Hughes said. "That would definitely make me feel like everything paid off."

Reach Joey Jones at