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What are the odds?: Swimming POYs also boyfriend & girlfriend: Part 2 (INCLUDES: Herald All-Area Girls Swim Team)

Photo by Scott Chancey

Photo by Scott Chancey

Swimming may be an individual sport, the kind filled with countless lonely hours of hard work and dedication.

Just don't tell that to Lee County's Haley Kerrey.

There's nothing selfish about Kerrey, who not only loves the sport, but has somehow been able to embrace the team concept in a world where it's all about the individual.

Sure, Kerrey is lights out in the pool, where she qualified for more GHSA state events than any swimmer in Southwest Georgia. But she also has an uncanny ability to make the sport more than just about her.

"At the beginning of the year I asked all the swimmers to fill out a form and write down their favorite events and their least favorite events in order,'' Lee County swimming coach Kelly Futch said. "Haley came to me and said: 'It doesn't matter. Just put me wherever you need me.'

"She has an unbelievable attitude.''

Kerrey, whose boyfriend, Deerfield's Taylor Withers, won the honor for the boys, has those kind of qualities in and out of the pool, making her an easy choice for The Herald's Player of the Year for girls swimming.

Kerrey is only a junior but she led Lee County to the Region 1-AAAA team title by winning three events and anchoring two winning relay teams to make it to state in five events, including individual titles in the 50 freestyle, the 100 freestyle and the 100 breaststroke. She anchored the 200 medley relay and the 400 freestyle relay teams that won region titles.

Kerrey and her younger sister. Morgan, both swim for Lee County. They came to Leesburg from Picayune, Miss., fleeing Hurricane Katrina. When her mother told the girls to take whatever they wanted to keep as they left before the storm hit, the only thing Haley brought with her were her swimming trophies.

"That doesn't surprise me,'' Futch said when told of that fact about her star swimmer. "She is so talented, and loves swimming, and she's definitely competitive."

Kerrey started swimming when she was 5 years old.

"We had a pool at our home in Florida, but (I was) doing gymnastics (back then),'' Kerrey said. "Then when we moved to Mississippi they didn't have gymnastics, and my mom told us that we should do something in the summer, so we started swimming.''

By the time Kerrey was 7, she and Morgan were swimming competitively.

"I guess we were just naturals at it,'' Kerrey said. "The coaches we had were ecstatic because we won so much.''

But that's only part of what Kerrey has brought to Lee County.

"She will do anything to help the team,'' Futch said. "She helps the other swimmers and she is one of the best cheerleaders on the team.''

Kerrey is a natural at that, too.

"I'm all about being a team leader,'' Kerrey said. "I love motivating the relay teams. And I've been swimming for so many years that I'm used to the atmosphere. Some of the other swimmers were new (this year) so I would just talk to them and try to keep them calm, try to help them get ready and just tell them not to worry but just to have a good time. Because that's what it's all about, having a good time.''

Kerrey's approach to swimming is also unique.

"When I'm swimming, I'm not swimming against other people,'' Kerrey said. "It's just me against the pool. I'm racing against myself, trying to beat my best time. You're always trying to get your time down. It's the way I look at it.''

2009-10 GIRLS ALL-AREA

SWIMMING TEAM

Casey Schoenberger, Lee County, Sophomore

WHY SHE'S HERE: Schoenberger qualified for state in two individual events, the 50 free and the 100 free, and was on both swam the backstroke for the 200 medley relay and was the anchor on the 200 free relay teams, which qualified for state.

Emily Butts, Lee County, Junior

WHY SHE'S HERE: Butts won the region title in the 200 free, and was a member the 200 free and 400 free relay teams that advanced to state.

Kali Eigenberg, Lee County, Senior

WHY SHE'S HERE: Eigenberg won the region title in the 200 individual medley and was a member of three relay teams: the 200 free, the 400 free and the 200 medley that made it to state.

Shelby Hancock, Lee County, Senior

WHY SHE'S HERE: She was a member of Lee County's 200 medley relay team and also a member of the 200 freestyle relay team that both made it to state.

Madison Holcolmb, Lee County, Senior

WHY SHE'S HERE: Hancock won the 500 freestyle region title lapping the field, and she was also a member of Lee County's 400 freestyle relay team that qualified for state.

Sunnie Chason, Bainbridge, Senior

WHY SHE'S HERE: Chason won the region title in the 100 freestyle and the 100 backstroke and qualified for state in both events.

Rena Divine, DEERFIELD, Sophomore

WHY SHE'S HERE: Finished eighth at state in the 100 free and was a member of the 200 free relay and 200 medley relay teams, which both finished sixth at state.

Caroline Hawkins, DEERFIELD, Junior

WHY SHE'S HERE: She set a new school record in the 200 free and finished seventh at state in the 100 butterfly. Hawkins also was a member of the 200 freestyle relay team and the 200 medley relay team, which both finished sixth at state.

Camille Fox, Deerfield, Sophomore

WHY SHE'S HERE: Was a vital member of the DWS team, and finished eighth at state in the 200 freestyle.