“I am definitely a flyer,” Juneau-Douglas High School 2008 alum Amber Kelly said. as she continues to strive for swim excellence at the University of Arkansas Little Rock.
“This is my final collegiate season so I am setting higher goals for myself.”
Kelly, a senior, and freshman Megan Scott (San Antonio, Texas) swept the weekly Sun Belt Swimmer and Diver of the Week awards, the conference offices announced on Wednesday (Oct. 31). UALR took second at the Hendrix Classic two weeks ago Friday and finished third in the Hendrix Relays the following Saturday.
Kelly registered seven runner-up finishes. In her only individual, she recorded a season-best time of 2:13.92 in the 200 IM. In the 400-medley relay, she turned in an event-best butterfly split time of 57.17. Kelly followed that performance with a split time of 53.51 in the 400 free relay. On Saturday in the Hendrix Relays, she helped the team take a quartet of second-place finishes in the 400 Medley, 400 free, 1500 free and 300 IM relays.
Scott garnered diving conference honors for the second time in her young collegiate career. On the 1-meter springboard diving event Scott blew away the competition with a combined score of 295.40, nearly 80 points better than the runner-up and two points shy of breaking the 17-year old school record. She followed that up with a personal-best of 264.60 to finish second on the 3-meter board. In exhibition dives on Saturday, Scott captured a pair of diving wins. She tallied a score of 219.44 on the 1-meter board and a 218.00 in the 3-meter event.
When Kelly graduated from JDHS, she took a year off from school to improve her swim times.
“I wanted to focus on swimming,” Kelly said. “Since I didn’t have anything to worry about that year.”
Now Kelly is completing a double major at UALR, in Health Promotion Programs In Education and Respiratory Therapy.
The UALR season began in October.
“I didn’t really train this past summer,” Kelly said. “I worked two jobs down here, trying to support myself without help. Being adult.”
Kelly stated that she worked up to 12 hours per day but still did try to fit in a two-hour swim on occasion.
“I ran a lot in the mornings before work,” Kelly said. “Or I would do weights when I could. A lot of time it was just abdominal workouts and running, just trying to keep up my cardio.”
Kelly’s goals are to chase her past college records in the 100 free of 51.92, 200 free of 1:53.34, 100 fly 55.56, 200 fly 2:05.25, and help the team erase her five relay records (800 free, 400 free, 200 free, 200 medley, 400 medley). A personal goal is to make collegiate nationals.
“I only have a second and a half to drop in the 100 fly,” Kelly said. “I think I can do it.”
Kelly is dealing with a shoulder injury but still swam at the recent meets.
The “A” cut for nationals is 52 to 53 seconds or “freaking fast” according to Kelly. The “B” cut is 54 seconds.
“Not to many people make the A-cut so qualifiers can go to the nationals with B-cuts,” Kelly said. “You get to swim in the same race against all the competitors. If I can make it I will compete against anyone. It is a huge stretch and to knock that time off is hard, and intimidating.”
Kelly currently spends 20 hours a week in the pool, the maximum allowed by the NCAA.
However, due to her shoulder condition, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, Kelly is supposed to limit her exertion levels.
“Basically when I am swimming my arm goes numb,” Kelly said. “And I can’t feel the water. The muscle pushes the nerve against my collarbone, basically. But this is my last year so I am at the point where I really don’t care or not. I am still going to push myself and finish it out.”
Kelly stated that the last meet was the first competition that she had real problems with her shoulder.
“I didn’t give up,” Kelly said. “I wasn’t going to give up.”
The UALR swimming and diving teams return to the pool when it travels to Bryant, Ark. to compete in the Henderson State Invitational Nov. 9-10.