The Buford swim program has a bright future, and sophomore Danielle Brooks, who entered the program for her ninth grade year, is a big reason why.
For the program’s first three seasons, the season ended long before the state meet. Since Brooks has been around, the Lady Wolves have been state bound.
A year after leading her team to 25th in the standings in the Class A-AAAA meet in Buford’s first state appearance, Brooks finished eighth in two events and led the Lady Wolves to the 15th overall finish at the Class A-AAAAA meet at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
For her efforts, Brooks is The Times Girls Swimmer of the Year.
“She started with us last year, and she’s totally raised the bar for the whole team,” said Buford coach Roger West. “It’s really amazing how the whole team has turned around since she made the team.”
She did so well this season that one of her biggest problems was how to choose the events she would swim at state, because she qualified for state in 10 of the 11 events she was able to swim in this season. According to the Georgia High School Association’s rules, a swimmer can only swim two individual and two teams events at state.
Brooks made the most of her second trip to state, finishing eighth in the 50-yard freestyle in a time of 24.25 seconds, 14th in the 100 freestyle (53.76) and helped lead the 200-yard freestyle relay team to an eighth-place finish (1:42.68).
She also set school records in the 200 Freestyle Medley Relay, 50 free, 100 free, 500 free, 200 free relay, 100 Butterfly and 100 breaststroke.
The reason she’s been able to do so well in so many events?
“I’ve been swimming year round since I was seven,” she said. “And when you’re little, you practice all of the strokes.
“With my new coach I’ve focused more on butterfly and freestyle. But I have experience in all of them.”
Her best and also favorite events are the sprints, hence her eight-place finish in the 50 free. And in the fastest of the events, the smallest improvements can have the biggest impact.
It’s what she likes about them, and the sport as a whole.
“Each stroke, each technique, the way you stabilize your body, that’s what I think is really cool,” she said. “It’s more of an art, and there’s always something you can do to make you better, like going faster off the wall, or a better breakout. It’s the small things.”
With her focusing on the small things, and with the help of new Splash Aquatics swim coach Andy Deichert — based out of Gainesville’s Frances Meadows Aquatics Center — has allowed the Buford swim team to make big leaps forward.
Brooks is just happy to be a part of the growing program.
“I went to Buford because of the great academics and the great school, the swimming was just a bonus,” she said. “The coaches at Buford, they’re so encouraging and they make it really fun. It was really cool, last year was our first year to state, and this year we had more people go.
“For me coming in as an outsider, they’ve just kind of taken me in.”
In turn, Brooks has given the Lady Wolves her best.
“She’s really devoted so much time to it, because she puts so many hours of practice in,” West said. “She’s really dedicated to swimming.”
Brooks, who started swimming for her neighborhood team at the age of 5, wouldn’t have it any other way. For the sophomore, it’s more than a sport.
“I love it, and it’s an outlet for me, it helps me stay focused,” she said. “It’s a big part of my life; I wake up, go to school, go to swimming practice, do my homework and go to bed. I love it, I wouldn’t change any of it.
“And after you get all your pieces together it’s like a masterpiece. For just 23 seconds in the pool you worked all these hours, but it’s worth it.”
Her masterpieces in the pool have helped the Buford team reach new heights previously unimaginable.
Now, both Brooks and her coach are excited to see what they can do in the next two years.
“I’m really impressed with what she’s done with this team, and we’re looking for great things the next two years from her,” West said.
“We’ll always get better each and every year,” Brooks said. “Every year you get better if you try harder, and our team definitely has a lot of potential.
“It’ll be exciting to see where we go.”