At her first swim practice, a 7-year-old Peyton Greenberg clung reluctantly to dry land.
“I didn’t even get in the baby pool,” said the Manual sophomore. “I’d hide behind the lawn chairs and cry.”
It’s safe to say she has overcome that fear.
Greenberg, 15, now spends up to five hours a day in the water and is considered one of the nation’s elite junior swimmers.
Already this season she has posted two top-10 national times in the 200 breaststroke for her age and was recently invited to compete at the 19th Maccabiah Games set for July 18-30 in Israel.
The Maccabiah Games are an Olympics-style international competition held every four years for athletes of Jewish descent.
More than 8,000 athletes from at least 50 countries are expected to compete this summer, making the games the third largest sporting event in the world. The U.S. will send a delegation of more than 900, including Greenberg, who was one of 12 junior girls (ages 15-18) selected to the swim team.
“I’m very honored to go,” said Greenberg. “A lot of people have said they are proud of me and that’s a cool thing to know that they support me and they’re going to be rooting for me.”
After joining the nationally regarded Lakeside SeaHawks Swim Team four years ago, Greenberg raced up the state rankings as a breaststroker, then made a statement on the national scene in December when she qualified first in the 200-yard breaststroke prelims at Winter Junior Nationals in Knoxville, Tenn.
Greenberg eventually finished sixth at the event, but the experience solidified her status as a rising star.
“She’s in that upper echelon of kids (nationally),” said Lakeside coach Mike DeBoor. “She’s had a lot of progress and things continue to go in the right direction.”
Her 200-meter breast time of 2:35.07 at the Austin Grand Prix in Texas on Jan. 18 was fast enough to land a spot in June’s World Championship Trials in Indianapolis, this year’s de facto national championship.
“At my last meet (in Austin) I was like, ‘This is where I want to be,’” said Greenberg. “Now I feel like I have a different attitude. In the back of my mind, I know where I want to be.”
In addition to the 200 breast, Greenberg also competes in the 100 breast, 200 IM and 400 IM.
At last year’s KHSAA state meet, Greenberg took fourth in the 100-yard breast and swam a leg on Manual’s third-place 200-yard medley relay squad to help the Crimsons to their sixth title in eight years.
Like many top-notch swimmers, Greenberg keeps a grueling schedule.
Three days a week she is up at 4:20 a.m. and in the pool at the Mary T. Meagher Aquatic Center by 5 a.m. After a 90-minute session, it’s off to school, where she maintains a 4.0 grade-point average. Following dismissal it’s back to the pool for another two-and-a-half-hour session and then an hour of dry-land training. Her three “light” days each week consist of a two-hour afternoon session.
“After a while I’m just kind of numb to it,” said Greenberg. “I just wake up and get in the car.”
Greenberg hopes a strong showing at the Maccabiah Games will lift her profile and possibly serve as a stepping stone to her ultimate goal of competing at the Olympics.
“I know it’s going to be a lot of hard work, but I’m really excited and I believe I can do it,” she said. “And that’s the most important part.”
Sweet 16 Draws
Draws for the KHSAA Boys’ and Girls’ Sweet 16 basketball tournaments were held in Lexington on Jan. 25.
Contact columnist Chris Cahill at firstname.lastname@example.org.