Doughty Enjoying Life in the Fast Lane
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Doughty just finished going fast at the 2006 Speedo USA Swimming Junior National Swimming Championships against the fastest 18-and-unders in water.
And in the fastest two events in the pool.
A rising senior at the O'Neal School, Doughty, 17, finished 61st in the 100-meter freestyle and 67th in the 50-meter freestyle at the championships in Irvine, Calif. He was just under his best time in the 100, with a 53.79, and just off his 50 time, with a 24.73.
"It was great I was just happy to be there," said Doughty, who returned home Saturday.
A five-time state 2-A champion, Doughty qualified for Junior Nationals in the 50 with a time of 24.5 at an Athens, Ga., Sectional qualifier that hosted the likes of Michael Phelps.
Phelps went out to Irvine a week before Doughty for the senior National Championships.
For competitive swimmers, junior nationals means you're not Phelps -- at least not yet.
"Juniors is pretty big," said Doughty, who is also an academic All-American.
Taylor Cooper, director of the Sandsharks swimming program and Doughty's coach since he was 7, said senior Nationals should be next for Doughty.
"I told him, if you work hard enough and you do the right things, you can get there," Cooper said, adding that Olympic glory is not out of the question for the still-growing sprinter.
"All factors look like they're there," said Cooper, a former Olympic Trials swimmer himself. "When he's 24, it will be, how much is he willing to commit?"
For his part, Doughty said the Olympics is a goal, but going to college comes first.
Doughty has been scouted actively by some of the nation's premier swimming programs, including Harvard and Auburn universities.
Texas University and legendary coach Eddie Reese took a long look at Doughty's long body during Junior Nationals, Cooper said.
"(Reese) said, 'Look at that wingspan!'" Cooper said. Reese compared him to former Longhorn and 2004 gold medalist Ian Crocker.
Cooper predicts that Doughty will be 6-foot-6 by the time he quits growing.
"At the sprint level, it's about size," he said. "He has size."
The now 6-3 senior said he is looking heavily at Harvard.
"We've done so much work to this point, scholarship money is priority No. 1," he said.
Though she deflects all praise to her son, Doughty's mother, Lindley Fleury, has most certainly played a role in his development.
Fleury was a scholarship swimmer at Indiana University and is now a National Champion master's swimmer. She did not compete in this year's World Games so she could be with her son in California.
Add to that an All-American water polo-playing uncle and a swim coach grandmother and it's clear to see that Doughty has some rich genes. He began training with the Sandsharks when he was 4.
But after that, it's all him, Fleury insists.
"He's really surprised me," said Fleury, who actually trains in the same Sandsharks group with her son. "He's done it all himself."
Cooper said that attitude toward Doughty's training has really helped him progress.
He remembers Doughty as a 7-year-old, a kid "who couldn't swim down the right side of the lane."
"Some parents would be going bonkers about their 8-year-old," Cooper said. "His mom said, 'Eh, don't worry about it.'"
Fleury and Doughty both point the praise right back at Cooper.
"He's really patient. He'll tell you your mistakes but he won't tell you every single time," Doughty explained.
"He doesn't pit you against other swimmers," said Fleury. "Everyone helps each other."
Doughty is Cooper's first Junior Nationals qualifier in five years, but two girls just qualified at a recent Zones Championship and "two to three others are right behind them."
Though he doesn't agree with the idea that sprinting is not coachable, Cooper said that Doughty gets the drive he needs from within.
"He has a healthy outlook -- he doesn't mentally anguish over things," Cooper said.
If left in control of the movie, Doughty said the next part of the script will tell of a top-24 finish at next year's Junior Nationals and then Nationals.
"You have to have a lot of self-desire. You have to want a specific time or you won't do it," Doughty said of his strategy. "You have to really plan it out."
And this from a swimmer who is young for his age group, having just recently turned 17.
"He's like a big puppy still," Cooper said. "We're just going from one stone to the next stone."
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