Her coaches do not want to throw too much at her right now, but this summer that gradual approach is the only thing slowing down Emma Reaney.
She won both events she swam in Friday at the Aquahawk Invitational at the Lawrence Indoor Aquatic Center, easily taking first place in the 50-meter freestyle and the 200 individual medley in the 11-12-year-old girls age group.
Today, she'll swim in the girls open division, going against high schoolers and even collegians.
Possessing an ideal slender physique and a level of maturity not commonly found in 12 year olds, Reaney has all the tools to be among the best home-grown talents produced by the Lawrence Aquahawks despite the fact that she's still in junior high.
"It's one of those sports you can do your whole life," the Southwest Junior High seventh-grader said. "It'll really help you with discipline. It can be really hard at times, and if you just push through it, it will show you a lot."
So far, Reaney has shown plenty of her ability on the national stage. At the Ohio Valley Championships on June 9 in Louisville, Ky., she finished fifth in the open category in the long course 400 individual medley but her time of 5:13.37 was good enough to give her the third fastest time for age group in the nation.
That same day, Reaney earned the fifth fastest time in her age in the long course 200 individual medley with a time of 2:30.30. In addition, she also is ranked in the top 16 nationally in four short course events.
"She's does have a prototypical body for swimming," Aquahawks head age-group coach Scott Bliss said, "but it's also coupled with the fact that she works hard and likes to be coached."
Added Aquahawks head coach Mike Soderling: "You tell her do something once. She does it. She does it really well."
Reaney has yet to face the alarm clock wars of early morning swimming during the school year, but this summer she has been swimming 6:15-8:30 a.m.
"Non-swimmers think we're getting crazy for getting up at 6:15 and swimming because that's not what normal people do, but we're not normal people," Reaney said, flashing a set of braces. "We're competitive swimmers."
Her schedule makes slumber parties and other adolescent rituals an obstacle, but she said it's all worth it.
"A lot of people ask if they can come over, and I say, 'No, I have swim practice,' but that's just a sacrifice you have to make," she said.
Although college still is years away for Reaney - so is high school, for that matter - one school intrigues her the most. She has been to a week-long camp at Texas twice and wouldn't mind becoming a Longhorn.
The Aquahawks coaching staff have entertained the notion of taking a group of club members to the 2008 Olympic trials in nearby Omaha, Neb. For Reaney, it would be an opportunity to see what she would be shooting for four years later as she hopes to go for a spot in the 2012 Olympics, recently awarded to London.
"We want to dream, and we want to look at the big picture," Bliss said, "but you have to take care of the small steps in between."
Bliss stands firm on the fact that he does not want "to do too much too quickly."
Neither does his student.
"I just kind of think about what's ahead of me," Reaney said.