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2019-20 GIRLS SWIMMER OF THE YEAR: Hailey Galbraith, North Forsyth
Hailey Galbraith
North Forsyth junior Hailey Galbraith captured her second straight state championship in the 50 free this year. - photo by Ben Hendren

Hailey Galbraith was ecstatic, and she had every reason to be.

The North Forsyth junior had just captured her second consecutive girls state championship in the 50-yard freestyle event, and after she climbed out of the pool at Georgia Tech Aquatic Center, she was among her teammates and coaches as they celebrated with her.

Being in the company of others is simply a product of her sociable personality, but she got a little bit caught up in the moment, completely forgetting that she had another race to swim — the 100-yard butterfly, in which she placed second the year before.

In that second race of the night, Galbraith came less than a second away from grabbing first yet again. After a second-place finish there, she had an idea of what she had to do to close the gap.

“I probably need to not socialize between the 50 and the 100 fly,” Galbraith said. “There’s only like 10 minutes of a break, and every year I find myself talking to people, hugging people, which I love. I love talking and hugging, but I have to warm down and get focused for the 100 fly. I'm so hyped about the 50 free that I kind of forget about the 100 fly.

“I know that physically I can do it, it's just mentally preparing myself at the meet. I know that I'm going to do it.”

But while the results at this year’s state meet were the same as her last appearance there, Galbraith’s last two seasons couldn’t have been more different. And while her sophomore year was one marked by surprise and redemption, she had to combat high expectations for the first time as a junior.

“I think there was a lot more on the line this year because after winning last year, I thought there was more pressure to come back and do it again,” Galbraith said. “I had more fun with it — I knew I had worked all year and I had done everything that I could to prepare, so I knew going in that it was going to be a good meet. No matter what, the outcome was going to happen.”

From extra work inside and outside of the pool, lifting weights and stretching, Galbraith did everything she could to give herself an extra edge.

“I'm flexible, but it's always good to be more flexible,” Galbraith said. “You can never be too flexible.”

But that doesn’t mean her routine was absolutely flawless. From a nutrition standpoint, she feels like the has a lot to work on as a senior.

“I find myself not eating enough and not having good fuel for practice, so I know that I need to eat more and better foods,” Galbraith said. “I'll find myself halfway through practice starved and I'm like, ‘Bruh, I didn't eat enough.’ I've got a few things down my checklist and that's one of them.”

And she’ll need every kind of advantage she can get against competition that she feels is getting better and better by the year. But no matter how much tougher the road to more state titles becomes, she’ll always have another motivation — one that she can hear at the end of each race.

“It kind of makes the whole sport come together,” Galbraith said. “This is why we do it. Not just for yourself, but it's also such a big thing to hear your team cheer for you and have everyone behind the block screaming your name. It's such a high. It's a feeling that I can't even explain, but when you touch the wall and hear your name get called out, you're like, ‘This is why.’ It makes it all worth it.”