School is about to get much tougher for Ali Slack. She realizes that. And looks forward to it.
The Greater Atlanta Christian senior ranks near the top of her class academically at the Norcross private school with a perfect 4.0 GPA, but she admits she doesn't always have to push herself in some less demanding classes.
"I don't really think I do work at it that hard now," Slack said. "Now in calculus class or something like that, I work really hard. If the class demands a lot, I work a lot."
Her future should be filled with those tougher classes.
Slack, a highly regarded swimmer, was recruited by some of the nation's top athletic schools before committing to Harvard this year. She visited Michigan State and Duke, and also had visits scheduled for Maryland and UCLA. But after her visit to Harvard, she canceled the Maryland and UCLA trips and narrowed her list to Harvard and Duke.
In the end, she chose the challenge of the Ivy League.
"When I visited Harvard, I loved it," Slack said. "The coaches, the team, the entire atmosphere was great. Not just the swimming, but the school, too. When people think Harvard, they think stuck up. But they weren't stuck up at all. The people were so nice.
"I like the Ivy League atmosphere. I've been kind of excited about it for a while. For so long swimming's been No. 1 but I'm really excited about working on academics there, and doing swimming at the same time."
Slack's academic accomplishments are impressive - she wouldn't have been recruited by Harvard if they weren't - but her abilities in the pool certainly added to her value to the college.
A SwimAtlanta club swimmer, Slack has excelled at the state high school meet with at least one state championship in each of her first three high school seasons. She has four state titles overall in Class AA/A, and won them in three different events.
At the 2006 state meet, she swept her individual events with state championships in the 50 freestyle (24.14 seconds) and the 100 free (52.31). It was her second straight title in the 50 free after winning in 24.09 seconds in 2005. She also won the 100 backstroke as a freshman in 2004.
She will be a freshman again soon, but Slack hopes to contribute immediately at the college level as well.
"I'm the second-fastest sprinter on the team going up there and the other is a senior now," Slack said. "My goal initially was to make NCAA cuts on a relay my freshman year. But I think I may be able to help out in some individual events, too."
She helps plenty at GAC.
Her individual points for two state championships were huge as the Spartans placed fourth in the state last season. The Spartans are aiming for another high finish at state, and they also are hoping to get at least a few meets in at their new aquatic center, slated to open this season.
The first races in the new facility will be exciting for Slack, who hopes to be more of a team leader this year with her college choice behind her.
"I'm a co-captain this season and that's been really amazing," Slack said. "I've never been included with the team this much before (because of year-round practice). This year I'm going to go to two (high school) practices a week (in addition to SwimAtlanta practices). It's been really great to get to know all my teammates better. It's a totally different role, but I'm enjoying it. It's very rewarding."