Bulldogs swimmer is living in the fast lane

If Hunter Rogers isn't in school, she's likely in a swimming pool somewhere.

Rogers, 16, began swimming at The SportsCenter in Concord and then at SwimMAC when she was 7 years old. She has committed more than 25 hours per week to her sport - just for practice - for the better part of the last decade.

Rogers' dedication to the sport has already started to pay off. She's one of the most accomplished swimmers in Cabarrus County at the beginning of her junior season at Jay M. Robinson High School.

Her sophomore season was a banner year. She won the South Piedmont conference titles in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle events. She helped her 200- and 400-yard relay teams win league titles, and she earned SPC and Cabarrus News Girls Swimmer of the Year awards in the process.

Rogers, who led her team to its second straight conference team title, also finished fifth in the 200 freestyle and fourth in the 500 freestyle at the state championship meet.

While a lot of swimmers would be satisfied with that success, Rogers is focused on improving even more.

"All of my success has really only motivated me to want to get better," Rogers said. "I feel like I will be even stronger and faster this year and I hope to be able to show that at the big meets like states."

There's nothing that indicates Rogers won't have another record-breaking year, as she has been breaking records since she arrived on campus at Robinson.

She will be looking to improve her personal bests for both Robinson and the Mecklenburg Aquatic Club in the 100 free (53.00), 200 free (1:55.00) and 500 free (5:08.00).

Rogers dominated her events last year, including the 200 and 500 freestyle in most meets. This year she is focusing on shorter events; the 100-yard freestyle and another event to be determined are likely to be her focus outside the relays.

She will have a lot of help on Robinson's squad, which is already 5-0 this year. Senior co-captains Jessica Gomez and Grace Koontz, plus Addison White, and juniors Maria Buck, Sydney Kopelic and Megan Maglione all are expected to make big contributions.

But Rogers' staying on top of her game will be a major key for Robinson, if the school, which has never lost to a Cabarrus County team since joining South Piedmont, hopes to contend at the 3A West Regional and state meets.

"You have to be very personally motivated to dedicate yourself to swimming as much as Hunter has," said Beverly Kopelic, in her seventh year as the Bulldogs' head coach. "If your head is in the water, you might hear the crowd or your teammates. But most of the motivation, especially if you swim at her level, has to come from inside."

While her progress at Robinson is important, the bulk of Rogers' work comes with her SwimMAC team, where she practices from 3 to 6:30 p.m. every weekday and also has three morning practices a week before school, from 5 to 6:30 a.m.

With MAC, Rogers regularly works with some of best swimmers in the Cabarrus County and Lake Norman areas, including Lake Norman High's Heather Isetts, Logan Heck and Reed Wheeler and Hough's Peter Brumm, Heather Merritt and Payton Schrum, to name just a few.

Her SwimMAC class, named the Senior 1, will have an opportunity to improve when they travel to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., the day after Christmas.

Her accomplishments for SwimMAC, along with her success with Robinson, in the next two years will determine whether she pursues her swimming career in college.

Rogers will certainly have the academic credentials. She takes AP and honors classes at Robinson and is also involved in the community: She is one of the swimmers in charge of a joint charitable effort among the swim teams at Robinson, Cox Mill, Concord and Northwest Cabarrus high schools, called "Teams for Tomorrow." The group is conducting a toy drive for the CVAN battered women's shelter.

Still, swimming has usually been at top of her list.

"Swimming has always been a huge part of my life, so it's hard to imagine what I would do without it," said Rogers, who mentioned James Madison University as a college interest. "I really hope that I can swim well enough to keep doing it in college."