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GIRLS SWIMMER OF THE YEAR: Aikins caps off illustrious career with Longhorns

A little over a year ago, Caroline Aikins hit a slump she knew was coming. 

It’s a common dilemma for female high school swimmers. The body stops growing, and dropping times becomes harder. Naturally, frustration grows. 

Aikins, then a junior at Lambert but also a dedicated year-round swimmer, decided to make a change. She moved locations within the SwimAtlanta organization to their Midway location and began working with head coach Landon Harris. He promptly overhauled Aikins’ technique, but it was an educational process that didn’t immediately produce encouraging results.

Only a little anxiety set in for Aikins. This was, after all, the prime stretch of her swimming career for college recruitment, and Aikins was eager to make the most of her senior year at Lambert after the Longhorns’ run of four state titles ended. But Aikins’ younger brother had been swimming for Harris and had glowing reviews, and her times had not been improving before working with him.

“I was kind of at a point where I wasn’t improving where I wanted to, so I just kind of was like, ‘What do I have to lose?’” Aikins said.

That change paid off this season. Aikins had arguably the most impressive individual performance at the GHSA Swimming & Diving Championships in February, winning the 100-yard backstroke, 200 individual medley in a new personal best time and contributing to Lambert’s third-place finish in the 200 medley relay as the Longhorns finished second in Class 7A for second straight year.

“Swimming is like 90 percent mental, especially for me,” Aikins said. “I think being with Landon, just having a lot of technique work, put me in a right spot mentally to have a great season.”

It was a culmination of the senior year Aikins envisioned, especially after she signed to swim for the University of Georgia this past November. 

Aikins struggled to choose between Georgia and Texas A&M, the three-time defending SEC champions, but it certainly helped that her older sister, Katherine, is on the Bulldogs’ team.

“I really felt like I was at home when I took my recruiting trip over there, because I knew everyone so well,” Caroline said. “Everyone’s really so nice and welcoming. Plus, Catherine and I have grown up being on the same team. That will be fun.”

Caroline will arrive to Athens with that slump well behind her and all the confidence and lessons learned from pushing through it.

“I definitely want to go in and make a place for myself,” Aikins said. “That’s going to be a lot of hard work, but I know if you work hard there you improve.”