Originally created 09/17/06

Athlete Spotlight: Laura Beth Thomas

Although the break from swimming was only a few weeks, Laura Beth Thomas missed her time in the pool during August.

"It was crazy. I didn't know what to do," said Thomas, a South Aiken High School sophomore who swims for her school and the Aiken-Augusta Swim League.

Thomas said she started swimming in a summer league when she was 6, and it wasn't long before she was swimming with the league, which she has been a member of for eight years.

"I love, love, love the water. It's a part of me," said Thomas, who fared well in her first swim meet with South Aiken on Sept. 7. She won her two races against North Augusta High School, and placed first in the 500-yard freestyle and 100-yard butterfly.

Thomas said she hopes to make it to state this year and place high.

The school swim season is about three months long and the swim league is year-round, so she admits that many of her goals in the sport have to do with the league.

"I really want to make it to the Junior Nationals," she said.

Thomas spends six days a week in the pool practicing for her next meet.

Her best stroke is the butterfly and she said she likes swimming the long distances.

"There are about 20 kids in my group, and there are only two that like the long distances," said Thomas' swim league coach Kristen Schlegel. "She's good at it."

Schlegel has coached Thomas most of her eight years with the league, and said that Thomas has always had the endurance needed to go the distance, even at an early age.

"She's like the Energizer bunny," Schlegel said.

Thomas is already thinking about competing in college.

"I want to swim at Georgia. I went to a swim camp there," she said.

She said the camp sold her on the school. If she becomes a Lady Bulldog, it could be interesting when she returns home during school breaks.

"My dad went to Clemson, and my mom went to Carolina," she said.

Schlegel said Thomas is a hard worker, and she will help her achieve her goal of swimming for the University of Georgia.

"I would love the opportunity to get her in Georgia," Schlegel said.

Though she doesn't want to follow in her parents' collegiate footsteps, Thomas is considering following their career path. If she doesn't opt to become a physical therapist, she said, she might study to be a chemical engineer.

"They both are," she said.

Reach Charmain Z. Brackett at czbrackett@hotmail.com.


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