The eighth-grader at Tampa Prep already has times that would have been competitive at last year's state meet.
By TERRY JONES
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 30, 2002
TAMPA -- When Tampa Prep assistant coach Scott Thomas first saw eighth-grade swimmer Chelsea Nauta compete, he was so amazed he compared her best times to those of the final eight in last year's Class A state championships.
Then he was really amazed.
"Chelsea's times now would have put her into the top eight in six different events," Thomas said. "She is as talented as any swimmer I have ever coached. She came into the school last year too late to compete with the team as a seventh-grader, but she really helps us this year."
The versatile 14-year-old qualified for the USA Swimming Senior Nationals last year and has won numerous gold medals in age-group junior national meets since age 6.
Since she started, she has swam for Rich Rogers, coach of the T-Bay Swim Club in Clearwater, outside of high school season. In individual competition this year, she is undefeated in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle, her primary events. But she also is doing well in the backstroke, butterfly, breaststroke, individual medley and the other freestyle events.
"Tampa Prep is the high school I selected because of its academics, plus the administration allows me time to compete in my club schedule," she said. "We have some good swimmers on the team and many of them are young like me, so we should have a good future here."
Nauta says she doesn't mind swimming any event Terrapin coach Joe Solak asks but freestyle is her best stroke.
"Even though I can compete in all strokes, I don't like the individual medley very much, because I don't like the breaststroke," Nauta said. "I can do it, but I prefer the freestyle."
Tampa Prep has developed numerous successful athletic programs, and the swimming and diving program has a winning tradition. Three national-level athletes are part of the boys and girls teams. Senior diver Chris Colwill is a member of the national diving team and senior Rachel K. Simon is a member of the national synchronized swim team.
With her times still improving, Nauta could qualify for the Class A state meet in November and perhaps even place in the top eight in one or two individual events.
However, she wants many of her teammates to go with her and score points.
Thomas said several members of the girls team are working to be on one or more relays. Included are senior Anne Tucker, junior Catie Carey, freshman Dana Putney and eighth grader Kathryn Buchman.
"I want to qualify for the state meet and place in the top three in my individual events," Nauta said. "To win one would be great. But I have a goal for the team too.
"We have strong district competition with Academy of Holy Names and Berkeley Prep, but I would like for us to win districts and make a good showing at state as a team."