When it comes to her swimming career, Cassie Ley chooses to be brutally honest.
She wishes she was more athletic or had better coordination. If she did, she would likely be somewhere else.
Instead, swimming is the perfect fit. She has been doing it for 13 years, long enough to make the 4:45 a.m. wake-up call seem like no big deal.
Now a junior for Hilton Head High, Ley already has both team and individual state championship rings to her name with two seasons left to add to her collection.
With the Class 3-A state championship meet less than a month away, The Island Packet/Beaufort Gazette caught up with Ley to discuss her goals to repeat and to allow her to dispel some myths about the sport.
Question: How long have you been swimming and what drew you to the sport?
Answer: I've been swimming since I was about 3 and needed help just to put my head under water. I'm very uncoordinated, so that's why I stuck with it. And when you do something well in swimming, you feel very accomplished. It's a sport where you do your best and see what happens.
Q: Waking up before sunrise was never a deterrent?
A: It's time management. You just have to learn. It's a process. When I first started doing it, nothing went right. Now, some days I'm up at 4:45 in the morning to come swim before school. Your body gets used to it a little bit.
Q: I think that keeps a lot of people from trying out -- what are they missing out on?
A: A lot of people don't really have an idea of what the sport is. It's a lot more than swimming back and forth. It's harder than what people think. When I tell people I'm a swimmer, they say, 'I can swim, too.' But competitive swimming is difficult. You're putting yourself out there against other people.
Q: Any other myths about swimming you don't like hearing?
A: I hear a lot that it's a girls' sport. Look at the Olympics. Pretty sure there are a lot of guys swimming.
Q: What was your experience like last year when you won a team state title and the 100 freestyle event on the same day?
A: It was really awesome. I knew we could do it, but I was kind of surprised at the same time. We worked really hard as a team, so I expected that one, but the individual one, I didn't expect to win anything. So that was the surprise.
Q: Do you feel this team is in good position to repeat?
A: We only lost two swimmers, but they were two very valuable swimmers. I think because we have so many middle school kids that came up this year -- they're pretty good, too -- that we could be in pretty good shape.
Q: What events are you focusing on this year?
A: The same two as last year -- the 100 free and 200 (individual medley). I think I can win them both this year. I find that I'm generally really good at IM because it incorporates all the strokes together.
Q: You also participate in relay events. Does that require you to change your mentality during a meet?
A: Yes, it's much different when you race for your team, especially in a relay, because you're not just doing it for yourself. You're out there thinking about how to help the team, and you don't want to let anyone down. It feels a lot better to win for your team. It just has a different feel to it.
Q: What are your ultimate goals with swimming?
A: I'd really like to make Olympic trials.
Q: Speaking of the Olympics, will you find yourself watching every event next summer?
A: Definitely. I watch every event. I look at it as an opportunity to get better. When I watch the events, I watch how the swimmers race various strokes, their splits and how they dive. I try to improve by watching what they do and applying it to my own swimming.
Q: Do you have much free time for hobbies outside of swimming?
A: Swimming is a sport where you have to dedicate yourself or don't do it. I like to hang out with my friends, but swimming and school are my top two priorities. I can barely find time for much else.