This is Amelia Messegee's home away from home. And, to her own surprise, it's her ticket to a major college.
At least five days a week for 51 weeks out of the year, and sometimes twice a day, Messegee, a senior at Centralia High School and a three-time state meet participant, is in a swimming pool.
"I like the chlorine," she said with a laugh. "Not really. Actually, I like the water. I like the feel. It's the greatest feeling."
With her love for training, Messegee is a coach's dream, the ideal mix of talent and desire. She's been a year-round swimmer since she was 10, taking only a week off in August each year.
"She has the talent, the dedication and the drive," said JoAnne Enbody, Centralia's coach. "She has it all. She has that special personality."
Messegee will get a return on her years of investment. This month she's taking all-expenses-paid recruiting trips to Southern Methodist University, Arizona State, Texas, Washington and Indiana.
"I know people at most of those schools," said Messegee, who flew to Southern Methodist last weekend. "It's going to be cool."
Messegee is driven but not fanatical. She doesn't overtrain, pushing herself to injury. An A-student, Messegee keeps a balance with swimming, school and friends.
"She's been doing it so long she knows her body, she knows her limitations," Enbody said. "She knows what she needs to do."
Looking for a challenge, Messegee began swimming at age 8. Two years later, she joined an Olympia club team and was soon qualifying for national meets. But it wasn't until her sophomore year at Centralia that Messegee began thinking she had the right stuff to swim in college.
She also worried that Centralia was off the radar screen of college recruiters.
"No one knows where Centralia is," Messegee said. "We're more known for football and basketball. I knew it was going to be an uphill battle."
Last year at the Class 2A state meet, Messegee won the 100- and 200-yard freestyle and anchored the Tigers' winning 200- and 400-yard freestyle relays. She was named the 2A swimmer of the meet.
Messegee, the oldest of three siblings, was willing to pay her dues. During the school season, Messegee is in the pool up to four hours a day, doing two-a-day workouts three times a week.
From 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., she's turning laps for the school team. Then, three times a week, it's right back into the pool, churning laps from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. for her club team, Poseidon Aquatic Club.
During the summers, her club practice increases to six days a week.
"When I'm doing laps, I'll sing or do math in my head," Messegee said. "It helps pass the time."
Swimming on a team that combines with Chehalis and Rochester high schools, Messegee is an inspiring success story.
"She's very inspirational," Enbody said. "She's always trying to help her teammates. She doesn't have a big ego. She's just a great kid."
Last summer, Messegee got her scuba diving license, making an open water dive in Puget Sound. She discovered it wasn't like the swimming pool.
"Swimming in the Sound frightens me," Messegee said. "I kept seeing jellyfish."
Over Christmas break, she plans on going to to the Florida Keys to scuba dive.
Until then, if Messegee's friends can't find her, they know where to look - the pool.
Gail Wood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-754-5443.
South Sound swimmers to watch
Amelia Messegee, Centralia, senior
Claira Heffernan, Olympia, freshman
Julia Williams, Capital, junior
Michelle Tynan, Capital, senior
Kira Skinner, North Thurston, senior
Madelynn Brickey, North Thurston, sophomore
Julianne Heryford, Tumwater, senior
Emily Adelmann, River Ridge, sophomore
Asha Srivastava, River Ridge, sophomore
Ehra Francis, Black Hills, sophomore