Moments before she raced for the 100-yard breaststroke title at the state swimming Meet of Champions, Colleen Callahan was focused on the event's consolation race.
Atlantic City senior Rosemary Christian was swimming in that race. Callahan, a freshman, walked over to Christian to wish her well.
Atlantic City coach Bill Howarth stood nearby and watched the scene with a couple of other coaches.
"I said 'Look, she's walking over to Rosemary and is not even worried about her own race,' " Howarth said. "She was wishing her senior captain good luck. That's why our team was good, because of that respect from freshmen to seniors."
Callahan not only won the 100 breaststroke but also the 200 individual medley at the Meet of Champions.
The March 7 meet capped a stellar season.
The Ventnor resident was one of several freshmen who sparked Atlantic City to unprecedented success. The Vikings won 14 meets and the first South Jersey title in the program's 11-year history.
Callahan is The Press High School Female Athlete of the Winter.
"Everyone is ecstatic about our season," Callahan said. "Our seniors won only two meets when they were freshmen. To be able to go 14-1 is amazing. I'm really glad me and the other freshmen could help the seniors have (a great season) before they graduate."
Howarth knew Callahan had talent. Her 100 breaststroke time as an eighth-grader was better than the winning time at last year's MOC.
Callahan quickly established herself in high school. She broke the school record in the 200 IM in the team's first meet - a 146-37 win over Cumberland Regional on Dec. 3.
The outstanding performances and history-making wins kept coming.
Atlantic City beat traditional powers Vineland and Mainland Regional for the first time.
Callahan broke a 15-year old record at the Hackney High School Girls Invitational Swim Meet on Jan. 9. Her 100-meter breaststroke time of 1 minute, 12.97 seconds broke the mark of 1:14.98 set by Mainland Regional's Julia Mason in 1993.
The Hackney meet showcases the region's top girls swimmers. Mason went on to swim as the U.S. Naval Academy and is one of the Cape-Atlantic League's best ever.
But what Callahan did better than anything this winter - especially for a freshmen - is handle the pressure that comes with being the favorite in every race sh swims.
Her experience as a club swimmer helped.
"I don't even know that she understands pressure," Howarth said. "She's just like a little puppy to me. She just looks like she's having a good time."
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