Hopewell's Alexandra Guzma is what coach Steve DeLatte calls a "drop-dead sprinter."
"She's amazing to watch," DeLatte said, referring to her speed.
Despite receiving that "amazing" description, Guzma recalled being a bit nervous before competing in the 50-yard freestyle race at the 2012 WPIAL championships last winter.
"I was worried about [competing against] Emily Pia," Guzma said.
Pia was a senior from West Allegheny at the time. Guzma recalled watching Pia as they raced. Pia was just two lanes over from Guzma.
"I was pretty close to her, so I knew I had to push a lot harder," Guzma said.
Guzma accelerated, avoiding drag caused by breathing. In the end, she tied Pia for second place with a time of 24.92 seconds.
"She surprised a heck of a lot of people," DeLatte said. "Her stroke is effortless. She doesn't look like she's really working that hard."
What's even more surprising to most people is the fact that Guzma is not a year-round swimmer. While many top swim competitors names are known throughout the district because they also swim with their year-round clubs, Guzma's was not.
"She doesn't swim year-round, so when she swims fast, it's a surprise to most people," DeLatte said. "But her teammates and I expect it."
DeLatte said that because Guzma doesn't participate in additional sports at Hopewell, he's been able to stretch her swimming to about seven months a year. It's a sport Guzma is looking to build upon.
"Most of [Guzma's] ability is just God-given talent, but what we try to do is work on the little things," DeLatte said. "Entering the wall on turns, getting out quick, etc."
DeLatte explained that he had been her youth swim coach as well as her high school coach, so he has had the opportunity to watch her progress over a seven-year period.
DeLatte also explained the meaning of his term "drop-dead sprinter."
"At the 50 she's fantastic, at 100 she's pretty darn good," he said. "Above 100, she's [an adequate]swimmer."
Likewise, Guzma has honed her sprint abilities to be a scorer for Hopewell. She also anchors the 200-yard medley relay, and she's one of the four girls on the 400-yard freestyle relay. DeLatte added that in each of Guzma's four years of high school swimming, the school records in those relay events have been broken.
Guzma set a Hopewell record in the 50-yard freestyle event, a mark that had lasted 33 years, set in 1979.
Guzma also has her eye on breaking Hopewell's 100-yard freestyle record, which also was set in 1979. The time Guzma wants to beat is 55.60 seconds. So far, Guzma's best time in that event is 56.2.
One slight disadvantage of being a seasonal swimmer is that it takes a while to peak. But Guzma knows how to make the time curve work for Hopewell.
"We have a conference meet usually the first weekend in February. By then, she's bringing her times down half a second to a second. She knows when to peak," DeLatte said.
A senior, Guzma has begun exploring the possibility of swimming at the collegiate level.
"I love swimming," she said. "My teammates are like my family and I want the same relationships in college."
Guzma isn't sure which schools hold her highest interest yet, but she knows she'd like to choose a Division II school close to home.
"I want to try to swim Division II right now," she said. "I'm a student-athlete, so I'm a student first. I want it to be the same in college."
Before Guzma chooses a swim path for college, she has one more very clear goal.
"Our goal this year is to get her back to the state meet in the 50-yard freestyle," DeLatte said.