Spiders’ Knox on track for third straight state swim meet
Tuesday, Feb. 04, 2014

Spiders’ Knox on track for third straight state swim meet

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/01/30/11/10/17zHbr.Em.138.jpeg|242
    Concord High swimmer Hailey Knox, a senior, will likely be swimming in her third 3A state championship meet on Feb. 8.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/01/30/11/10/SF8wo.Em.138.jpeg|247
    Concord High swimmer Hailey Knox, a senior, will likely be swimming in her third 3A state championship meet on Feb. 8.

The moment in high school swimming that gave Hailey Knox the most inspiration may have come in the one state meet that she didn’t swim in.

As a freshman at Concord High three years ago, Knox didn’t qualify for the state meet, but still attended to support her teammates. The adrenaline she felt from the experience convinced Knox that she wanted to be more than just a spectator in the championship arena.

If everything goes as planned at the 3A Central regional meet on Feb. 1, Knox will be competing in her third straight state championship meet Feb. 8 at Cary’s Triangle Aquatic Center.

Described by her coach as “almost zoning out” at meets, Knox’s approach to swimming is one of determination and focus. Next year, she’ll be competing in college, having narrowed her choices to either UNC Asheville or Lenoir-Rhyne.

“She knows exactly what she needs to do when she enters the water,” Concord coach Ray Morgan said. “Whether it’s swimming a personal best time, beating the person beside her, or swimming a qualifying time for regionals.

“She’s going to be a great coach one day. She just puts her nose down and goes.”

Knox specializes in the breaststroke and the freestyle sprint events. At the 2013 state meet, she placed 15th in the 100-yard breaststroke and 17th in the 100-yard freestyle.

At the South Piedmont 3A meet on Jan. 17, Knox placed fifth in the breaststroke and second in the 100 freestyle, missing a conference title by less than a half-second.

The conference meet during her freshman year kick-started Knox’s climb to swimming supremacy. Determined to qualify for the regional meet, Knox secured a spot in the breaststroke with a time of 1 minute, 20.59 seconds, and placed fifth in the race.

Despite a 22nd place finish at the regional meet, Knox still attended the state meet as a spectator that year.

“It was awesome to see the kids compete at the state meet,” Knox said. “I knew it was something I wanted in my future. Seeing how exciting it was and seeing the adrenaline rush they got at that meet, I knew that’s what I wanted.”

Knox’s best conference meet was last year, when she placed second in both the breaststroke and 100 freestyle.

A positive person

Knox credits the year-round swim program at Huntersville-based NOMAD for turning her into a state meet competitor. But intrinsically, Knox draws her focus and determination from her family.

She is the daughter of Patty and Jay Knox, a former college football player. Hailey’s grandfather is Dick Knox, who was a longtime administrator with the N.C. High School Athletic Association and is a member of its Hall of Fame.

Hailey Knox sees herself as a positive person who likes to help others, whether it’s in swimming or outside the water. She takes her role as a team captain seriously and lent her leadership skills to a special team project at Christmas time.

She and Concord High boys team captain Chris Bradley approached school officials about providing gifts and necessities to a couple of fellow students and their family. Knox and Bradley collected items only from their teammates, which amounted to several hundreds of dollars in gift cards and other presents.

“I’m just so proud of them for coming up with the idea and seeing it through,” Morgan said. “Hailey, that’s just what she does. She likes to get involved in a lot of things. Of course they had the help of from all of our swim team families.”

Joe Habina is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Joe? Email him at joehabina@yahoo.com.

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