North Allegheny junior Jade Song excels as an individual swimmer as well as in relays.
When it comes to freestyle, she's got an "open mic."
Song recalled the 400-yard freestyle relay race at last March's WPIAL championship meet. It was Event 23 at the end of a long day, but the crowd was electric.
"It's the last race of the whole meet, but everyone's there and everyone's cheering," Song said. "You're still pumped up for it."
The Tigers skimmed the surface of Pitt's Trees Pool for a time of 3:28.83, a meet record as well as a school record.
"Our girls had been working so hard," Song said. "To go to such a big meet and to win by so much -- we were pretty far ahead. It was just a great feeling to see that we'd won the relay by so much."
Song, a junior, had also placed second in the 500-yard freestyle event that day. Her time was 5.02.60, a testament to her potential for 2012-13.
North Allegheny swim coach Corky Semler noted that Song is, in fact, faster this year than last year.
"She's much faster in her test sets than she was a year ago," he said.
Semler explained that a "test set" was a set of times taken for swims of one distance, for example 10 swims at 100 yards each.
To keep improving, Semler explained that Song trains for 11 months of the year.
"Typically, we have a morning practice before school starts," Song said.
North Allegheny swimmers must show up at 5:30 a.m. for practice. If they are late, they must arrive even earlier the next day.
"After school, we come back and swim for usually two hours," Song added. "And usually we have weight room training after that."
Song calculated that North Allegheny swimmers train for roughly 20 hours per week. But during the winter holiday, the team spends its time a bit differently.
"We have something called Hell Week," she explained. "It's a fun week. We don't have school, so we come in in the morning and we train. Then we come back in the afternoon. It's seven hours of swimming every day for that one week."
Song, like all North Allegheny swimmers, takes pride in the grueling training schedule. She feels that the Tigers are one of the best teams in the WPIAL because of their hard work.
"I think on our team we encourage each other a lot," said Semler. "We have a lot of fun together. Socially, they all hang out together -- they're a group that really wants to achieve excellence.
"The kids know that they're in one of the elite programs in the state. They don't mind doing the work to keep that standard up; they don't want to be the team that lowers the standard."
North Allegheny has already had two scrimmage meets -- a home intersquad meet on Nov. 27 and a scrimmage at Peters Township this past Tuesday. The Tigers first meet is an out-of-conference matchup at State College on Saturday.
But Song felt that the Tigers were already "seaworthy."
"We train year-round," she said. "It's all the time that we're working hard. We're always at practice, we always have meets -- we never really have a season where we don't do anything."
Semler felt Song is as ready for great things as the team is.
"The results of her practices have been much better," he said. "It leads us to believe she's on her way to some really good performances."