Senior swimmer JT Stilley has had a career to remember as he has climbed the ranks to become one of the best to tread water for the North Mecklenburg High swim team.
"I've just seen him grow and mature over these past four years," said Vikings swim coach Tim Queen. "He was really competitive at the ninth-grade level. He's worked hard, kept to himself and dropped time like crazy every year."
Stilley learned how to swim at the age of 6 It wasn't until he was 10 years old that he started competing.
"I played other sports growing up, but I really started to focus on swimming at 13," Stilley said. "I loved to swim and realized that it would probably be my best shot at playing a sport in college. My parents supported my decision 100 percent."
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Stilley has sprung himself into the forefront as one of the best swimmers in North Carolina, finishing third in both the 200- and 500-meter freestyles at the state meet last year. Stilley earned a scholarship to UNC Chapel Hill.
"He'll do well [at the next level]," said Queen. "It won't be a shock for him because I've seen other kids go off to these big schools and get lost as a small fish in a big sea. But he's got the personality, and I think he'll fit into that tank pretty well."
Despite all the work he has put in to get to this point, Stilley says the work during college will really test Stilley.
"It's going to be a whole other level of workouts," he said. "The biggest thing will probably be lifting weights. Trying to balance all of those double [practices] along with weightlifting and school is going to be a challenge."
Before the season ends and Stilley takes off for Chapel Hill, there are still some things he and his coach would like to accomplish, including helping the Vikings win a second consecutive state championship as a team.
"Last year, when we won states, was one of the most exciting moments of my life," said Stilley. "It would be good to feel that way again."
While Stilley likes to put the team first, Queen thinks some bigger things could come the senior's way if he just keeps up his focus and hard work.
"Anything could happen at the meet," Queen said. "He'll have a shot at first or second in his events and could get real close to breaking some school records."
Stilley, who has been an all-conference swimmer since his freshmen year, is gunning for the Viking record books. For an athelete that has worked as hard as he could to perfect his sport, that payoff would be a big one.