Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Swimmer Takes Dive Down under She's 1 of 3 in State to Make Cut for Sydney Competition

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Swimmer Takes Dive Down under She's 1 of 3 in State to Make Cut for Sydney Competition

Article excerpt

Byline: Kerline Astre, Times-Union staff writer

Perhaps it was her mastery of the backstroke or the way she dropped 5 to 10 seconds off her breaststroke each summer.

Perhaps it was partly a stroke of luck.

Maybe she's just that good a swimmer.

Whatever the reason, 16-year-old Oceanway resident Brandi Effler, one of only three high schoolers in Florida chosen to go to Australia to take part in this summer's People to People Sports Ambassador program, said she's just excited to be a part of it.

The program, part of the non-profit group's effort to facilitate interaction between youths worldwide, will feature competition among Australian swimmers and 70 U.S. swimmers.

Four years ago, when Effler was coaxed into swimming by her best friend at a community pool, she never thought that first lap would one day lead her beyond the comforts of her Northside neighborhood to Sydney.

"Actually making the cut was exciting in itself," she said. "I'm looking at how uninterested I once was in swimming, and now it has become a part of my life."

Helping to develop that part of her life has been her involvement in the First Coast Aquatics program at the University of North Florida. Her coach, George Ibanez, said he's pleased to have had a small hand in her development, and that Effler has evolved into quite an athlete.

"Swimming is a very rigorous sport," he said. "Everything hurts after a good practice, but Brandi applied herself and ripened the raw abilities I saw in her in the beginning."

She was Most Valuable Player in the eighth and 10th grades. She is a junior at First Coast High School.

Ibanez said she has become one of the best swimmers in the area.

After People to People received Effler's application, she was contacted for an interview, and then chosen among the small group of youths nationwide for the trip. Last week, she began a 14-day trip that starts in New Zealand, continues to Brisbane, Australia, and then to Sydney, where swimmers will compete for gold, bronze and silver medals.

"It's almost like a high school Olympics," said Steve Effler, Brandi's father. …

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