Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Home-schooled swimmer Taylor Schick could have won multiple high school state championships had she been eligible in GHSA this season.
Elite swimmers see higher-level meets around the country during their careers, yet there's a certain lure to the state high school meet.
The opportunity to represent your school. The energy from the loud crowd and fellow swimmers. A team atmosphere that is similar to college swimming.
Taylor Schick was in the stands at Georgia Tech for this year's state high school championships, rooting on some of her good friends from SwimAtlanta. She enjoyed the day as much as she could without actually being in the pool herself.
A home-schooled student, she isn't eligible for the Georgia High School Association's meet.
"I'm so upset that home-schoolers don't get an opportunity to do that," said Schick, a Duluth resident who lives in the Norcross High cluster. "It's definitely a really exciting part of the sport of swimming. It's fun to be able to watch my friends do that but it's something that I'd like to be a part of, too. ... It's so exciting. It's a really good team atmosphere, that's one of the things I really like about it."
If Schick had been in the field, she likely would have been a major factor in it.
"The times that she has done would have won pretty much anything she wanted at (high school) state," said Chris Davis, her SwimAtlanta coach.
Davis isn't exaggerating.
Schick's best times this year in the 50 freestyle (22.78 seconds), 100 free (49.68), 200 free (1:47.51), 100 backstroke (54.42) and 200 individual medley (2:00.38) are faster than any times posted in either the Class AAAAA or AAAA-A portions of this year's high school meet. She could have been a state champion in any of those races.
The opportunity to compete for a high school team certainly appeals to Schick, who regularly fields invitations from her friends to their teams.
"Yes, yes, they ask me all the time (to come to their school)," said Schick, who is competing in the popular Gwinnett Swim League this summer. "They're like, my friends at private schools, you should come to this school and swim with us. Or others say you should come to public school with us. At the start of my freshman year I was going to go to Norcross, but I just decided to stick with home-schooling. I didn't really feel like I was missing out. I just felt like it was the right choice for me."
An earlier choice, made as a 12-year-old, also turned out well for her.
An active gymnast for eight years, she reached a high level in that sport with the Gwinnett Gymnastics Academy. She even lived in a hotel for five months while training with the Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy.
The sport was physically and mentally demanding, and eventually not too much fun. She gave it up and focused on year-round swimming for the first time.
"(Swimming) is so different," Schick said. "Gymnastics is definitely more of an individual sport. Coming over from gymnastics it's just like, 'Wow, in swimming you actually have a team and people are nice.' Gymnastics is very, very catty. And I'm not like that. I don't like that.
"I came over here and it was great. Swimming is an amazing team sport. It's an individual sport but you're great friends with your teammates. In gymnastics, it wasn't like that at all."
The full-time focus on swimming -- her previous pool experience was summer league with Peachtree Corners/North Manor -- also brought vast improvements in that sport.
While her home-school path doesn't allow her to compete in the high school meets, it does give her a little more freedom during the day. The only child said the home-schooling doesn't help or hurt her training, it just breaks up the day a little more than her high school peers, who are at school from early morning to afternoon every day.
"I've been home-schooled all my life, so I don't know how (public school is different)," Schick said. "For me, I really like (home-schooling) a lot. It allows so much more flexibility. You can get up and you don't have to go somewhere at 6:30 in the morning and go until 3. Then go to sports and come home. I definitely get more time with my family and more time in general."