ST. PETERSBURG - Adam Moody's Shorecrest teammates, especially the younger ones, all like to joke about his legs. "Thick as tree trunks," they tease.
Moody knows better. One of those legs was snapped three years ago, when the Go-Ped scooter he was riding to a friend's house just after Halloween collided with an SUV. Moody had failed to heed a stop sign - he was even ticketed later - and ended up with a broken leg, broken collarbone and a concussion.
His resolve, however, was intact. Moody, then a freshman, got back into the pool as soon as his doctors and his club coach, Fred Lewis of St. Petersburg Aquatics, would allow it.
Swimming was comfortable and familiar. And then a funny thing happened. He got faster.
"I had to start building my strength, and I built past where it had been before," Moody said. "When my freshman year started, I had been trying to focus more on school and less on swimming, to get my grades going for college. Since then, with coming back (from the accident), I've found more of a balance with things."
Moody has made steady progress since, but this year his improvement has been dramatic. A 17-year-old senior, he is Pinellas County's top swimmer in the 100-yard backstroke (by 2.68 seconds) and the 100 freestyle. His best time in the 100 back, 52.73 seconds, is nearly two seconds faster than his best time last year.
He enters this weekend's Class A district meet with a shot at closing out his high school career with a state title. Early this month Moody won the 100 back at the prestigious Florida Swimming Pool Association meet, an invitational in Orlando for top swimmers across all classifications.
"Last year ... was kind of a stagnant year for him," Shorecrest coach Lee Nelson said. "This year he's gone nuts."
Lewis, who has coached Moody since he moved to St. Petersburg from Delaware seven years ago, said he believes he is "just starting to scratch the surface of his potential.
"He's still learning the meaning of hard work, and the results you can achieve from that," Lewis said. "The results ... have definitely come from working hard. He has a bright future at college. "
While Moody sometimes experiences pain in his left leg, he agrees that the effort he has put in this year has meant everything.
"I work as hard as I can when I'm physically able to," he said, "and I'm getting a lot of good results I'm very happy with."
Moody has been recruited by Duke and Cornell, but guesses he'll end up swimming for the Blue Devils next season. Older brother Michael is already at Duke. A frequent volunteer at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg and treasurer of the hospital's Medical Explorers club, Moody hopes to follow in the footsteps of his uncle and a cousin and specialize in some form of pediatric medicine.
Sick kids aren't the only ones he's been helping. During Shorecrest's fall clinics, Nelson said, Moody can be counted on to help teach the younger Chargers.
"He'll come down every day and help me teach the kids the new strokes," Nelson said. "He's very much a leader in a positive way."