Staff Photo: John Bohn Rachael Dudley, a senior at Mill Creek High School, is the Daily Post's girls swimmer of the year. Dudley won her third straight state title in the 100 yard butterfly as well as also winning the 100 yard backstroke. Dudley will attend the United States Naval Academy.
Strange enough, Rachael Dudley's swimming career began with her watching others in the pool.
With an older brother already training at SwimAtlanta, Dudley earned the younger sibling's right observing the elder's activities.
"I was at one of his practices watching him swim and one of the coaches was like, 'She needs to get in and swim,'" said Dudley, the Daily Post's girls swimmer of the year. "I was just sitting there watching him all the time."
It's the last watching Dudley really did. The Mill Creek senior may be a year round swimmer, a multiple state champion in the butterfly and a winner this year in backstroke and she may be headed to the Naval Academy next year to continue swimming, but Dudley doesn't want to watch people swim.
"I hate watching people swim. I am glad I got to be in the pool," Dudley said. "It's so boring.
"I do (like it) if I know the people. But if it's just a long swim meet, I am just like, 'Ugh.'"
She doesn't even want to watch tapes of herself race, preferring her view from under the water.
That's who Dudley is, she's a doer.
From that day when the coach pulled her into the water, she only once tried to stop. Within a few years she, like her brother before her, began swimming year round and training at SwimAtlanta. Swimming became a lifestyle by age 10, so much so that Dudley remembers the last time she violently didn't want to practice.
"I remember when I was probably 9, maybe, around that age. I did not want to go to practice," Dudley said. "I was sitting around the TV, watching 'Full House,' eating cookie dough and I had to go to practice and I was so unhappy. Eventually, it became part of my routine. Not going to practice just feels weird. It's just ingrained in me now."
Her schedule gets her two weeks off a year, most Sundays and Christmas Day. Every other day, she's in the pool or working out near water. She guesses 90 percent of her friends are swimmers, while insisting she squeezes in as much of a social life as time allows.
The work reaps results.
"Rachael is one of those student-athletes that comes along only a couple of times in a coach's career," Mill Creek coach Rick Creed said. "Her dedication to her studies and to her athletic endeavors are unmatched. She's a tremendous leader in the classroom and in the pool. Her dedication and work ethic have paid huge dividends. Her outstanding accomplishments can be attributed to her drive, competitive spirit, commitment and wonderful family support.
"You can always count on Rachael to give it her very best effort for her team, school and community. The Naval Academy is a perfect opportunity for her to grow and develop as an academic, athlete and leader."
Along with picking up a Class AAAAA state title for Mill Creek this year in the 100-yard backstroke, Dudley also became a three-time defending champion in the 100-yard butterfly, her preferred event. Her goal was to defend the butterfly, but the backstroke championship came nearly on accident.
"The backstroke was kind of up in the air. It depends on what kind of day it is," said Dudley, whose grandfather and older brother were both backstrokers. "I don't train backstroke. I came in second last year, and I (thought), 'I hope I can win that next year.' It was a good day. It was a good backstroke day. You've got to be feeling the backstroke right."
And with two titles in hand, Dudley now trains for her college career at Navy. And, she says, soon will begin training for her arrival at basic training near the end of June.
"I have to get in running shape before I go. I am in swimming shape. Running, I am going to have to do a lot of training," she said. "I don't run. At all. I am an up-here (upper body) swimmer and running is down there. I'll have to get in shape before I go, or it will be rough."
Dudley isn't certain what her focus will be at Navy, other than swimming. She doesn't want to commit to any particular discipline. But between the physical demands of the military, the intensity of college athletics and the academic rigor even for a 3.9-GPA student, there won't be much time for rest.