It was an act of self-motivation at its finest.
Unable to fit Spanish II into his sophomore class schedule, Tommy King left it off and threw a kink into his plans of taking four years of the language in high school. No need to worry though, the Peachtree Ridge standout swimmer figured it out.
King borrowed the Spanish II textbook, took it home for the summer and became his own teacher. Later in the summer, he took a test for Spanish II and passed, allowing him to enroll in Spanish III for his junior year.
"I'm usually pretty good at studying on my own," said King, now a senior and the defending Class AAAAA runner-up in both the 100 and 200 freestyle. "That's kind of how I like to learn. I like to teach myself."
That kind of drive has led King to great successes, both in academics and athletics. Peachtree Ridge swimming and diving coach Jeremy Laird is amazed at his star swimmer's list of accomplishments, running short of breath as he reads some of them in succession.
Here's a shortened rundown of King's resume highlights:
· Ranks fourth academically in the Lions' senior class;
· Has been accepted to Yale, where he also will swim;
· Member of Peachtree Ridge and Gwinnett County Student Leadership Teams, National Honor Society;
· Freshman Orientation speaker;
· Worked Gwinnett County Teacher Recruitment Fair;
· Created and maintained his neighborhood summer swim team Web site, also working for the team as a junior assistant coach;
· Plays the piano, guitar and harmonica and is in a band called Reduced Lunch with a friend.
And that doesn't even mention King's athletic endeavors.
"I've never had someone involved in as many things as Tommy," Laird said. "He's a unique kid. It's the first time I've encountered someone who does so much and does it all so well. As a student, he's one of a kind. You wish you had 28 of him in the classroom."
Laird wouldn't mind a few more King clones on his swimming team either.
King led Peachtree Ridge's 200 free relay to second place at state last season, joining two outstanding individual races. He finished second in both the 100 and 200 free races as a junior to Brookwood's Stephen Swan, one of his friends who swam a pair of automatic All-American times.
He shrugged off the runner-up finishes to current Georgia Bulldog Swan, saying he was happy for his friend because he was a senior. King also posted personal-best times - 46.44 seconds in the 100 free and 1:42.84 in the 200 free - so he wasn't disappointed.
Not that he isn't hoping to win one of those elusive state titles this season. He may swim the 50 free at state instead of the 200 free this season, but it's the 100 free title he wants the most.
King also swam an automatic All-American time in that race at state, but his time of 46.44 was just behind Swan's 45.89.
"I certainly would like to win (a state title)," King said. "The most important thing is the 100 free. That's the one I really care about. That's the one I want to win."
"Last year to this year, (King's) pumped up, he's hit the weights more and he's swimming a lot more," Laird said. "He wants a state championship and he's giving it his all."
A state title would be a nice crowning accomplishment for King's resume. Laird said the swimmer has done what it takes to thrive in the pool, not a surprise for someone who is known to be a self-starter.
King keeps himself pretty busy year-round, but it pays off.
"I just try to stay focused on what I want to accomplish," King said. "During the school year it feels like school, swim and sleep is all I do. But it's rewarding in the end to be able to accomplish all my goals."
SideBar: THE KING FILE
Who: Tommy King
School: Peachtree Ridge
Favorite TV show: "House"
Favorite sports team: Atlanta Falcons
Dream job: "A couple of years ago, I would have said investment banker. That's not looking good right now. Probably something in business or finance."
Why I enjoy high school swimming: "It's a lot of fun and it's nice to have a chance to race every week. We don't get that outside of the high school season. And you get to see your friends. I like Coach (Jeremy) Laird and I like the team."
· State runner-up in both the 100 and 200 freestyle as a junior
· Will swim in college for Yale
· Ranks fourth academically in senior class
· Member of Peachtree Ridge and Gwinnett Student Leadership Teams
· Plays the piano, guitar and harmonica