North Gwinnett's Caroline Kenney won state and county championships in the 100 and 200 freestyle last season and has high expectations for her senior season.
It wasn't all that different from a job promotion.
One that came with better benefits, but also with more pressure, more responsibility and more expectations. The opportunity was there, Caroline Kenney just had to decide when and if she wanted to take it.
Just over a year ago, she did. At the suggestion of her SwimAtlanta coaches, the North Gwinnett standout swimmer moved up to the club's Select group just prior to her junior season.
"The coaches usually tell you when you're ready," Kenney said. "They had asked me to move up before but I didn't think that I was ready yet. I didn't think I was mentally ready for working that hard. Finally me and my coach Landon (Harris) decided it was time for me to move up and that I needed to get it done so I could swim well and get colleges to look at me."
Kenney performed well for her SwimAtlanta team and was unbeatable last season at the high school level, sweeping Class AAAAA and Gwinnett County championships in her two races, the 100 and 200 freestyle.
Her more intense, focused training resulted in 2-second time drops in the 200 free and 100 backstroke, along with a near two-second drop in the 100 free.
"I think last year when she moved up to my group, she took her game up a level," said SwimAtlanta founder Chris Davis, who coaches the club's Select swimmers. "She took it to another level with weights, with kicking, with consistency in workouts. And the harder she worked, good things started to happen. And she's extremely strong, a real good racer."
Kenney also had another decent racer in her Select workouts, Brookwood grad Amanda Weir. Olympian and former world-record holder Amanda Weir.
She had met Weir a few times, but never trained regularly with her until the move to Select.
"Two years ago I would go and swim with her group and do a set with her," Kenney said. "It's cool just to be able to say that I've trained with her, that I've trained with an Olympian. It does help to push me."
"Amanda decided to go after it again last year and that really helped (Kenney)," Davis said. "It helped Amanda because it gave her someone to race and it gave Caroline someone to chase."
As fast as she is in the freestyle, Kenney is still chasing Weir in those events, Weir's specialty. It's usually a matter of how close she can get to the pro swimmer in the lane beside her.
"It depends on the day," Kenney said of that chase.
Kenney has edged Weir in at least one freestyle event, just not head to head. She broke one of Weir's prep records with a county-meet record time.
After dominating at county last season, Kenney returned two weeks later at Westminster and added the third and fourth state titles of her career. She won the 200 free with the first of her two automatic All-American time, this one at 1 minute, 47.10 seconds. Her second was 50.15 in the 100 free, good for another state crown.
It didn't quite take down Weir's 100 free state record of 49.06, set in 2004, but it was still pretty fast.
"I was very happy (with state), I thought I had a good season last year," Kenney said.
The results in the pool gave her very good options for college swimming. She visited Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Auburn before committing to Virginia, where she visited in early October.
She enjoyed the swim team, but also the school.
"When I went there, I just felt like it was right," said Kenney, who maintains a 3.9 GPA. "I loved the team. I loved the coaches. And the school was exactly what I was looking for. They have outstanding academics."
But college isn't at the forefront just yet. She has goals for high school swimming, leading her team as best she can and repeating her state championships.
Her next club swimming goal comes in a few weeks at short-course nationals, where she hopes to break 1:45 in the 200 free.
Those goals keep her training hard each day with the Select group that has taken her swimming to another level.
"I think moving up into Select with Chris and the group I swam with last year was a great group," Kenney said. "We all worked hard together. We all were really good friends. Chris is an amazing coach and everyone in my group is serious. They are really committed to swimming.
"In the other group, it's very serious but it's a just whole new level. And especially last year with everyone and with Amanda being there. It's been great."