Leesburg's Nicole Fye has aspirations to one day swim in the Olympics, and she proved over the weekend that she is well on her way.
GREENSBORO, N.C. — Nicole Fye, a 13-year-old swimming prodigy from Lee County, proved again she is one of the best swimmers of her generation, and also proved to be one of the best in any age group in the 1,500-meter freestyle over the weekend in the Speedo Championship Series of the Eastern Section Southern Zone in Greensboro, where she shook off a terrifying start and came back to swim two of the best times of her life.
Competing in the meet, which offered swimmers of all ages in the southeast part of the nation a chance to qualify for the Olympic Trials in June, was a huge step for Nicole, who was the youngest swimmer at the meet. She didn’t make the Trials, but did make a statement for herself.
Her family’s van was wrecked on the drive to Greensboro when a deer ran in front of them, and the incident shook up the 13-year-old.
“No one was injured,’’ said Nicole’s coach Jeff DeMott, who runs the Albany area YMCA Rapids swimming club. “Being a young girl it was more tender to her heart because of the deer. She was shaken up. They (her mother, father and brother) were all shaken up. It was less than an auspicious beginning.’’
DeMott picked up Nicole about 45 minutes outside of Greensboro, and her parents rented a car and joined them at the meet later. DeMott said he could see the accident affected Nicole during the meet.
“She had to get over the jitters and everything else, and her first two days you could tell it affected her,’’ he said. “But on the third day she started swimming like herself, and on Sunday she uncorked a great time.’’
Nicole’s times dropped in all of her races, but she excelled in the 200-meter butterfly on Saturday, swimming the fourth fastest time for a 13-year-old in the nation, and finishing 17th overall in the meet.
Then she stepped up to a new level in both the 400-meter freestyle and the 1,500-meter freestyle, where she swam the fastest time in the nation for a 13-year-old in both races.
Her time of 4:32 in the 400-meter freestyle was the fastest this year in her age group, and her time in the 1,500-meter freestyle shattered the mark for 13-year-olds this year and had everyone at the meet talking when she finished fifth in the finals in a time of 17:32.22, which was not only the best time by a 13-year-old in the country, but the 23rd fastest time of any female swimmer in the country this year.
“The effect of the accident had worn off by Sunday when she swam the 1,500-meter free,’’ DeMott said. “Her time was 20 seconds better than any (13-year-old) in the country, and she’s in the top 25 in the nation for everyone. That’s pretty impressive. It was a big swim for her.’’
DeMott said the meet said a lot about his young swimmer — both in and out of the water.
“The setup coming into the meet was less than ideal after the accident, but she really pulled out some clutch swims,’’ DeMott said. “She was able to recover from the accident. She wasn’t tearing up. She took it in stride.’’