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East County Wed Sep 23, 2009 5 years ago

Athlete of the Week: Danielle Valley

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by: Jen Blanco Sports Editor

There is rarely a time that 14-year-old Danielle Valley isn’t in the pool.

The Lakewood Ranch High School freshman trains eight times a week with the Sarasota Sharks, swimming four to five miles every practice while competing simultaneously with the Sharks and the Lady Mustangs.

“I’ve always loved being in the water,” Valley said. “I like the competition and just getting up and racing people — it’s just fun to get up and race.”

On Sept. 19, Valley swam four events, winning the 100-meter breaststroke in 1:11:39 at the Tarpon Invitational.

“I like it,” Valley said of swimming for Lakewood. “There are more meets, you get to meet people, and it’s good to be active in the school.”

Last week, Valley had to make one of the toughest decisions of her young swimming career —participate in USA Swimming’s National Select Camp or compete in the district meet with the hopes of advancing in the regional and state meets.

Ultimately, Valley chose to participate in the National Select Camp, which will be held Oct. 29 through Nov. 1 at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Valley was one of only two girls 14 or under selected for the camp, designed to teach swimmers how to improve their strokes and more about the sport itself.

“I was surprised, but I think it’s going to be really fun,” Valley said. “It was a hard decision, but the camp is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I feel bad for my teammates that I can go to districts, but I’ll still be able to swim the relays (if we advance).”

After learning how to swim in her backyard pool, Valley began swimming in a non-competitive summer league when she was 9 years old before joining a competitive swim team five years later.

Looking for more competition, Valley, who swims the 500, 800 and 1,000-meter freestyles, the one-mile freestyle and individual and medley relays, joined the Sharks last year.

There was more competition over here and more opportunities,” Valley said.

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