HUDSON — It has been 16 years and one day since Chris Pearce's lifeless 2-year-old body was plucked from the family swimming pool.
One minute Pearce was at his mother's feet as she worked on a load of laundry. Then, as young boys do, he found more trouble than he could handle.
"The dog was barking a lot and (his mother) found him in the pool floating," said Chris' father, Bill. "I can't imagine what that vision must have been."
Maxie, the family dog, went into a barking fit and eventually pulled Rita away from the washing machine. Rita jumped in the pool to save the youngest of her three boys. She wrapped him in a blanket and performed what she hoped was CPR, reviving him before paramedics arrived.
Now 18, Pearce has no recollection of the accident. His parents kept a newspaper clipping from that day, but he has never asked to see it.
Pearce's faded memories of the day are probably why he has no fear of the pool. In fact, he has become one of the top swimmers on the North Suncoast.
"I was told I had fallen in the pool," said Pearce, who swims for Hudson. "Ironically, my mom tells me one of the dogs we had saved my life. I can't remember the dog's name."
Pearce's rise to local prominence in the pool is somewhat stunning considering the accident and that he did not begin competitive swimming until his freshman season.
Bill had made his son a deal: Get good grades and compete in athletics and dad will take care of spending money and a car.
"I didn't realize when I made the deal I would be the loser in this," Bill said with a laugh.
Swimming happened to be his fall sport of choice because coach Julie Heise was the first coach he met. She is a relentless recruiter of Hudson's hallways, always trying to convince kids to join her team.
Pearce had his coaches' attention from the start, swimming fast times. He picked it up a notch when he joined the New Port Richey branch of Tampa Bay Aquatics after his freshman season.
Pearce learned all about technique, terminology and teamwork. Then he learned a harder lesson, almost walking away from the sport after his good friend, Jon Wilke, died in an ATV accident last year. They swam on the same 200- and 400-yard freestyle relays.
But he stuck with it to become one of the stronger short-distance swimmers in Pasco County. His favorites are the 50 and 100 free though he has been in every event this season except the 100 breast.
Pearce has his eyes on a state berth in the 100 free. He got a personal record over the summer in 50.12 seconds. His toughest local competitors are Gulf senior Michael Centanni and Sunlake senior Brad Morrison. He could see both at Saturday's Sunshine Athletic Conference meet at the New Port Richey Aquatic center.
"Chris has worked extremely hard. He never misses practice," Heise said. "He goes all the time. He has put in the work to be good."