PALM HARBOR — In school, Devin McCaffrey is a normal, straight-A student at Seven Springs Middle.
In the pool, however, the 14-year-old is ready for college.
McCaffrey travels from his home in Trinity to the North Pinellas YMCA everyday to swim with his coach, Scott Hernon. Their relationship over the past 15 months has become something McCaffrey certainly cherishes.
"I don't know what to say about him," McCaffrey said. "He knows me better than any coach I've ever had. It's great to have a coach that knows my stroke and can help me get better the way that he has. I'm not sure what it is, there is just a connection there."
Hernon has seen his share of young swimmers, having coached high school, middle school, college and at the YMCA level. According to Hernon, McCaffrey is unique.
"His competitiveness is unreal," Hernon said. "If someone is close to him in the last leg of the race, he'll run them down. He is starting to train now as hard as he swims in the meets and it's catching up. We've worked on a lot of little things like turns, starting and finishing well, and how he comes out of the water. The times that he is swimming now are collegiate times."
The relationship with his coach, combined with 28 hours of training every week, has translated into success in a big way for McCaffrey. In February, he was named Best YMCA swimmer in his age group after winning six gold medals and one bronze in seven events at a YMCA meet in Orlando. He is ranked first in the state and eighth nationally in the 200-meter breaststroke.
At the Florida Junior Olympics last month, McCaffrey won three medals while swimming in an impressive 17 events in three days with 16 personal-best times.
McCaffrey's strength is short-distance events.
"I don't like building up to speed," he said. "I just like to get out and go. I have a lot of energy, so I like to push hard all of the time."
Brian McCaffrey, Devin's father, has been involved with youth football programs for several years, but has seen his son flourish as a swimmer more than he could have as a football player.
"It's been a unique experience for me because I don't know anything about swimming," said Brian, who played football at Ohio State. "If it were football or baseball, I'd be critical and want to coach him myself. I like that he is into swimming because I can just support him and be a proud parent when I see what he has achieved and how hard he works at it."
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