It was one of those freak accidents that, in hindsight, Central swimmer Rae-Lynn Sheffield could have and should have prevented. She can laugh about it now, even though she's paying for it.
Sheffield and her 13-year-old brother, Barrett, were having head-stand contests, seeing who could stay upside-down the longest. Sheffield came down a little sloppily and wound up with a nasty neck sprain.
The injury kept her out of the pool for two weeks, a major stretch for someone who typically trains five or six days a week. Months later, Sheffield still is trying to get back to the speed she had before she hurt her neck.
"I wouldn't say it's frustrating because I kind of expected it," Sheffield said. "I just have to work a little harder."
Last year, Sheffield became the first county girl to reach the state finals. She finished fifth in the 100-yard backstroke in 1 minute, 0.61 seconds and placed ninth in the 200 individual medley with 2:10.75. Her placement was good enough to put Central in 29th (out of 56 teams) in the Class 2A meet.
Sheffield is only a few seconds off last year's best IM time, though this season she's experimenting with different events.
"I definitely want to drop time," she said. "Sometimes I have bad swims, sometimes I have good swims. I'm actually pretty close. I just want to be faster."
For what it's worth, Sheffield beat her brother in that head-stand contest.
IN THE DARK: Springstead coach Justin Hengesbach thinks his boys and girls teams are doing well, but he couldn't say for sure.
Every meet on the Eagles' schedule thus far has been canceled, either because of looming hurricanes or hurricane-related power outages. While other schools have had at least one or two meets to gauge how their swimmers stack up, the county's top squad still doesn't know where it stands.
Hengesbach hasn't seen times from other schools, so he can't compare them to his swimmers. With several Eagles returning from last year, though, he at least knows he has a strong team.
The Eagles finally will get to see how strong when they face Lecanto tonight at 5 at Bicentennial Park.
_ EMILY NIPPS, Times staff writer