Taylor Wilson has grown up to love swimming so much that she essentially lives in the pool.
"I've always found a place in the water," said Wilson, who started swimming at age 5. "It's kind of a way to get away."
The 17-year-old doesn't take breaks from the sport, swimming and working out at least once every day for either her SouthLake Christian or NOMAD club teams. Wilson's so dedicated that she won't take a break while on vacation, finding a pool wherever she goes to stay in shape.
"It's all about dedication," she said. "If you don't put the time in, you're not going to see results."
That work seems to have been paying off for the senior the last few years.
After winning the Metrolina Athletic Conference championships in the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard breaststroke last season, Wilson has been having another noteworthy year for the Eagles.
She was undefeated in the 100 breaststroke heading into last weekend's regionals and came in second only once in the 200 individual medley.
"Especially with the breaststroke, she's continued to improve and keeps getting faster and faster," said SouthLake coach Gary Anderson.
Wilson has also been key member of the Eagles' 200-freestyle and 200-medley relays.
The Lady Eagles were undefeated in the regular season, going 6-0. The boys were 3-3, finishing close second in meets they did not win.
"It's been a good season," said Anderson. "We're about as amazed as anybody."
When the Eagles started the season, Anderson had several seniors who decided not to swim again. Combined with the talent lost to graduation that led both boys and girls to conference championships as well as top five finishes at states last season, Anderson didn't know what kind of team he'd have this year. He was even concerned as to whether he would be able to field a team.
"The forecast wasn't looking so well," said Anderson. "But what was neat about that was that some new swimmers we didn't know about showed up and took some of those places. ... Those underclassmen stepped up to the plate."
Wilson's experience and versatility was essential for the Eagles as they regrouped.
"It's hard to even describe the places that she fills," said Anderson. "She really takes that senior leadership and magnifies that in her events."
Wilson knew she had to step up.
"There are only like six high school girls on the team, so we have a lot of seventh- and eight-graders," she said. "I feel like they look up to us a lot. Having a young team, they need a lot of guidance."
Anderson said Wilson, who he's coached since she was in elementary school, became the team's anchor - and not just on the Eagles' relay teams.
He explained the Eagles' success can be attributed to how quickly the team came together behind Wilson.
"It's taken all of us to do this," said Anderson.
Heading into regionals last weekend in Rock Hill, the Eagles had 25 state qualifiers who will take part of Feb. 21's NCISAA 1A/2A meet. Anderson said that's an impressive quantity, considering the team only has 37 members and qualifying times got faster going into this season.
At the SouthLake Invitational held in January at Huntersville Family Fitness & Aquatics, the Eagles had one of their best meets of the year, defeating Caldwell Academy, a tough program that could contend at states.
"That was a big deal," said Anderson. "It was a close win, but being able to pull it out at the end gives us some good momentum going into states."
Seniors Ryan Scott and Matt Belter as well as freshman John Baker have had good seasons for the boys, while Ashton Rotella, Taylor Harkey and Moriah Anderson have made an impact for the Lady Eagles.
Wilson will attend UNC Wilmington next year, having the opportunity to be SouthLake's first college swimmer.
"I'm really excited," she said.
But first, Wilson hopes to improve upon her third-place 200 IM and fourth-place 100-yard breaststroke finishes at states last season.
"It'd be really cool if I can win states," she said. "That'd be awesome to do in my senior year."