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Describing her early pre-teen competitive swimming years as “nothing special,” rising star Maddy Burt had a bit of a revelation when she turned 12.

“I’d been on the (Marco YMCA) swim team since I was 5, but I suddenly thought to myself: ‘Whoa! I might be kind of good at this.’ I could feel I was getting better all the time,” Burt said.

Fast forward just five short years, and Burt today finds herself within a second of the Olympic qualifying time in her favorite stroke of butterfly over the distance of 100 meters. She also finds herself the recent recipient of the Southwest Florida Swimmer of the Year, and in recent months has found herself being wooed by an impressive assortment of schools that include Harvard, Purdue, Navy, LSU, the University of Miami and FSU.

Not to mention the University of Arizona, which won her over during a recent visit to the campus.

But, the Wildcats are going to have to wait a while to physically welcome Marco Island's Maddy Burt, because she's just finished up as a junior at Naples' St. John Neumann high school.

Her long-time coach at the Marco YMCA, Kamal Farhat, said Burt showed promise in the pool from the outset.

“She followed my directions,” Farhat said. “When I explained how I wanted a stroke done, she picked it up right away.” He said he doesn't interfere with swimmers' eventual stroke choices. Instead, he lets them basically evolve.

Burt, he said had a bit of a dolphin kick in her freestyle kick when she was starting out.

“So her body adapted to the fly,” he said.

But, he added, she's still and excellent freestyle swimmer, and even a late bloomer in breaststroke.

Farhat's goal right now is to get Burt within Olympic qualifying time. She's fine with that, but also says she'd love to win some NCAA swimming events when the time comes.

Her local meets have been with the Swim Florida team, which incorporates swimmers from Cape Coral down to Marco.

Burt trains mornings and afternoons twice a week, varying between sprints and long distance, and she also works out in a gym.

Because she burns so many calories during what is basically non-stop training, Burt slugs down lots of chocolate milk and eats plenty of pasta and chicken.

In national competition (six meets), she's had her good and bad moments, but she takes them in her stride.

“Sometimes I haven’t done what I've wanted, and I've been upset – obviously because I could have performed better," she said. “But I know I have made it to a national level and that I can work harder.”

Coach Farhat has trained a few Marco swimmers to high competitive levels. They include his daughter Mercedes, who qualified to swim in the Beijing Olympics for her dad’s country of birth, Libya, and also locals Susan Faremouth and Lisa Cottage-Ramnick.

And Coach Farhat's final take on his latest star: “She’s different when she competes. She brings it in. You don't have to tell her.”

For more on the Y's wide variety of programs and activities for adults and children, visit marcoymca.org or call 394-YMCA (9622). Follow on Twitter at ymcamarco; on Facebook @marcoymca, and Instagram at ymcamarco.

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