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Kim achieves goal of state championship

Hannah Kim celebrate winning two medals at the Georgia Recreation and Parks Association Swim Meet with her sister, Sarah Kim (front), and cousins, Catherine and Nicholas Stiener, at the Francis Meadows Aquatic Center in Gainesville. (Special Photo)

Hannah Kim celebrate winning two medals at the Georgia Recreation and Parks Association Swim Meet with her sister, Sarah Kim (front), and cousins, Catherine and Nicholas Stiener, at the Francis Meadows Aquatic Center in Gainesville. (Special Photo)

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Hannah Kim’s swim league coach, Amanda Jenkins (left) and swim club coach Mike Slotnick were in Gainesville to see the 10-year-old Henry County resident win a gold medal at the state swim meet. (Special Photo)

Like most youngsters, Hannah Kim was trying to find her niche in the sports world. She gave tennis a try, but it just wasn’t what she was looking for.

But the combination of her love to be around the swimming pool, created an interest in swimming. Her parents signed her up for swim lessons, and she quickly joined the Heron Bay Country Club summer swim team.

And instance success, with a lot of hard work, would soon follow.

After becoming comfortable enough with the four different strokes, Kim became a year-round swimmer. She would spend her summers with the Heron Bay team, and the rest of the year would be devoted to the S.M.A.R.T. team based out of the Steve Lundquist Aquatic Center in Jonesboro.

Those 40-minute commutes each way to the pool in Jonesboro have seemed to pay off. Last weekend in Gainesville, the 10-year-old Kim won the Georgia Recreation and Parks Association state championship for the 10-and-under 25-yard freestyle event.

The Locust Grove native had a personal-best time of 13.54 seconds to win her first state title.

“It was really amazing,” Kim said of her victory.

After missing the finals last year, Kim set her goal of “just reaching the podium”, according to her mother, Alexandria Kim.

But the youngster’s determination carried her all the way to the top place. Kim entered the one-day meet at the Francis Meadows Aquatic Center in Gainesville as the third seed in the event with a time of 14.23 seconds. She would do a personal-best of 13.72 in the prelims that morning to move to the No. 2 spot.

After a few hours of rest, she would do the go her personal-best of 13.54 to win the time.

“We were jumping up and down and crying when we saw her name for first place,” said Amanda Jenkins, Kim’s coach at Heron Bay. “It was pretty much her year to do it.”

She would take third in the 50-yard freestyle event with a personal-best of 29.65 seconds in the finals. Much like she did in the 25-yard event, Kim had best times in the prelims and finals of the 50 event.

Kim came into the 50 freestyle seeded fourth and held that spot after the prelims. She moved up one spot in the finals for her second medal of the evening.

“It is amazing how she has transitions from a beginner into a what she did at the state meet,” Alexandria Kim said.

But Jenkins isn’t surprised at her rapid progress in the last three years as a competitive summer.

“She is just a natural in the water,” Jenkins said. “She picked up on things right off the bat. She was willing to learn and dedicate herself to swimming. She has just gotten faster with each season.”

The S.M.A.R.T. club team is on a two-week break, before starting training for the upcoming short-course season. This past season, Kim made state cuts in several events to swim at the state meet at Georgia Tech last February. She also qualified for some long-course events this summer, but elected to do the G.R.P.A. meet instead of traveling to Savannah a week prior to the meet.

“She wanted to the meet in Gainesville, because she had a goal,” Alexandria Kim said. “She is totally committed to this. I’m a swim mom, that’s what I do. I get her to the practices, and she does all the work.”