Originally created 07/18/02

Games gauge progress

Kelly Hooton said she considers the Georgia Games Championships her biggest swim meet ever. After winning her second event in two years at the games, she might be ready for something bigger.

"It's kind of like a meet where you prove how good you are, and everyone gets to see what you can do," Hooton said. "It's just a meet where it shows how much work you've put in and how well you've done throughout the whole year to get to where you are now."

Hooton, of St. Mary's, Ga., won the 14-and-under, 100-meter breast stroke Wednesday night at the Augusta Aquatics Center, with a time of 1 minute and 15.54 seconds. Tonight, she will compete for the 200-meter breast stroke championship, which she won in Atlanta.

Last year, Hooton earned the opportunity to compete in the U.S. Open swimming championships in New York, but the King's Bay Swim Team decided not to make the trip after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Hooton handled the news with grace and maturity that is rare for a teen-ager.

"I felt OK, because I understood, and also I was scared to go on an airplane," Hooton said.

Hooton wants to qualify for the U.S. Open this year, but her 200-meter breast stroke time of 2:43 is two seconds slower than what she needs to qualify.

"I think I can do it if I try hard," she said.

Hooton credits her coach for helping the team improve.

"My coach has morning practices before school and afternoon practices," said Hooton, a rising ninth-grader. "Without his dedication, we wouldn't be able to be so fast."

Horton has been swimming competitively since she was 6 years old. She swims year-round.

She cannot imagine life without swimming.

"If I quit, then it would be really hard," Hooton said. "I've been doing so well, and I just wouldn't be used to the transition, so I just kept with it. It's the only sport I can do well."

Reach Lane Kramer at (706) 823-3425.


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