LITHIA — Her alarm goes off at 4 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. She grabs a breakfast bar, jumps into her red Jeep Liberty, jams out to whatever is playing on the radio and heads to the Brandon Sports and Aquatic Center. If she’s lucky, she’ll get there in time to catch a few more minutes of sleep on the pool deck before practice starts at 4:45 a.m.
Once she hits the water, she doesn’t get out until she’s swum about 6,000 yards — the equivalent of 3.4 miles.
“I think about what’s going to happen during the day, if I have a test, whatever is going on,” Amy Taylor said. “Or I’m just kind of in a daze.”
Her first swim of the day ends at 6:20. She’s showered and (ideally) on her way to Newsome High School by 6:40. Her first class of the day, child development, starts at 7:33 a.m.
And she’ll be back in the pool by about 3:30 p.m.
This is a typical day for Taylor, a senior at Newsome and one of Hillsborough County’s top female distance swimmers.
Taylor qualified for last year’s Class 3A state meet with a personal-best time of 5:02:86 in the 500 free at the region finals meet in Orlando. She finished 15th at state in her individual race and was part of the Wolves’ state-qualifying 200 medley and 400 free relay teams.
This year, her goal is to finish among the state’s top eight in the 500 free. A top-eight finish in the 200 free would be nice, too, she said.
Her coach saw that potential when she first joined the Newsome team three years ago.
“Amy has been swimming club for a long time, and on top of the experience in the water and putting in those 10,000 hours, she has the build for swimming,” said girls coach Chau Clark. “Amy is tall, slim and lean, and she’s all legs. So that body build alone denotes that this kid is going to be an amazing swimmer.”
The sport is in her blood, too — older brother Jason set a 500 free state record in 2008. He now swims at Florida and offers his sister advice before big meets.
“I just tell her not to over think it,” he said. “Just relax, go and win your race and have fun.”
It’s not easy to relax, though, when the alarm goes off at 4 a.m. (or 6 a.m. for “late” practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays). Taylor, who wants to swim in college and is looking at several state schools, saw last year what it takes to excel at the top level, and that doesn’t include an abundance of free time.
“It’s tough competition,” she said before a recent afternoon practice. “You really have to focus and put all your thought into your event. You really can’t take a day off because that will hurt you.”
Taylor hardly takes a second off at Newsome’s full-team Wednesday practices. While others have time for side conversations in between laps, her white Brandon Swim Club cap is always the first to move off the wall and into the lane. Her coach has come to expect nothing less.
“She’s so dedicated,” Clark said. “She doesn’t complain. Ever.”
That’s quite a feat for someone who wakes before the crack of dawn.