The Gazette Girls' Swimming and Diving Peak Performer: Meredith Rees, Lewis-Palmer

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Photo - 	Meredith Rees is the Gazette Girls' Swimming and Diving Peak Performer of the Year. She is photographed at Woodmoor Country Club where she swims for Lewis Palmer High School. 
Carol Lawrence, The Gazette
Meredith Rees is the Gazette Girls' Swimming and Diving Peak Performer of the Year. She is photographed at Woodmoor Country Club where she swims for Lewis Palmer High School. Carol Lawrence, The Gazette

Meredith Rees started her sophomore season on the Lewis-Palmer girls' swimming and diving team admittedly not fully aware of her full potential in the pool.

So her coaches, Alan Arata and Jackie Cromer, let her know.

Now Rees knows. And perhaps more frightening to her future opponents, she believes it.

"They're always telling me times I should shoot for, and I would say 'I don't think I can go in that time,'" said Rees, The Gazette's Girls' Swimming Peak Performer following second- and fourth-place finishes in the 50-yard freestyle and 100 freestyle at the 5A state swimming championships, which concluded Feb. 11 in Thornton. "They tell me I can do anything. I have to tell myself the same things, and that motivates me in a lot of ways."

Her numbers tell that story.

When she arrived for her first practices, the student at The Classical Academy couldn't break one minute in the 100-yard freestyle. By the end of her freshman year, she qualified for the state finals, finishing eighth in 52.34 seconds.

Last month, she shaved that time to 50.89 to finish fourth.

And in the 50 free, her time - 23.25 - in the finals of state meet would have won the title had it taken place one year earlier.

But then again, she may not have had that inner motivation at that time. She does now.

"I've talked to her that she can do whatever she wants, or needs, to do in the water, but she doesn't believe it yet," Arata said. "I can see it when she's out there. No one is faster. No one looks like she does in the water. I don't think anyone in Colorado Springs has swam those times, but she has so much upside. When she gets it in her head that she can be at a different level than everyone else, then look out."

This breakthrough season arrived not quite three years since Rees made the decision to put away the soccer ball for good and start swimming year-round.

And halfway through her high school swimming career, it looks as if Rees made the right choice.

"I used to just swim in the summer while I played soccer," said Rees, whose older sister, Natalie, graduated in 2015 after a four-year varsity career as a Rangers swimmer. "I felt like swimming was a better pick for me. It was a big jump going from not traveling to going to meets in different states and dealing with the pressure to perform when you're out of your routine. Eventually, I got used to it."

But can she get used to the swimming with even higher expectations for the future? Only she knows that, and she's certainly not satisfied with her stellar times to finish her sophomore season.

"A year from now, I would hope I could talk about a season that I got faster and maybe did better at state," Rees said. "Winning is nice, but I'd rather drop time and do well. I'd be happy if I just did well."