With the 2012 Summer Olympics just weeks away, one of the nation's best swimmers is trying to make her way from Pope High School to London. University of Georgia junior Kelsey Gaid won the 2009 GHSA state championship in the 500-meter freestyle while at Pope, an accomplishment made even more special considering she won with an injured shoulder.
"She's the type of swimmer you just dream of coaching," said Pope coach Chris Haon. "She is the epitome of a student-athlete."
Gaid was named Academic All-American in each of her four years at Pope with a 4.0 GPA. In her final three seasons with the Greyhounds, she was named team MVP and captain in 2009.
"Kelsey was a great leader," said Haon. "She was not the most outspoken girl, but she was chosen captain because she led by example."
Haon said she didn't have to say much or do much, everyone respected her for doing things such as swimming through an injury or jumping in on a relay that needed an extra boost.
"During the summer she was training for backstroke, but she could really do any stroke and excel at it," said Haon. "Her versatility was a huge help on the relays. And she also held several school records in completely different sets."
Gaid had quite a 2008 as she won Short Course Senior State High Point honors. That same year, she qualified for the US Olympic trials for the Beijing Games in four different events. At the 2008 Junior Nationals, Gaid finished fourth in the 200 backstroke.
After graduating from Pope and missing out on the 2008 Olympics, Gaid enrolled at the University of Georgia, where she has excelled inside the classroom as well as in the pool. As a freshman, Gaid helped Georgia to the SEC title by placing fourth in the 200 backstroke. She would go on to compete in the 500 free, the 100 backstroke and the 200 backstroke at the NCAA championships. As a sophomore, Gaid bettered her finishes at each of the events while once again helping Georgia win the conference title. This past season, Gaid posted the 11th-fastest time in the 200 backstroke and the 17th-fastest time in the 500 freestyle in the nation. For her Georgia career, she holds the school's second-best time in the 200 backstroke and the fifth-best time in the 100 backstroke.
Gaid is majoring in exercise and sports science and was named to the 2009 Athletic Director's Honor Roll, the 2010 SEC Freshman Academic Honor Roll, the 2010-11 Winter SEC Academic Honor Roll, the 2011 Spring Athletic Director's Honor Roll and the 2011-12 Winter Athletic Director's Honor Roll and the Dean's List.
She is trying to qualify in four different events including the 200 and 400 freestyle and the 100 and 200 backstroke. The US Olympic Swimming trials take place June 25-July 2 in Omaha, Neb.
Gaid will be joined in Omaha by three fellow Pope graduates, including UGA's Anna Neumeister, Wyoming's Jordan Turner and George Washington's Marshall Seedorff.
"We are so tickled that we'll have four trying to qualify," said Haon. "(But) swimmers like Gaid come along just once every few years. She is a phenomenal swimmer."