Swims competitively with MTSC
Competitive swimming isn't for everyone. First you've got to find a pool, you must be willing to train daily and finally, learn to live with the taste of chlorine.
Called a "water baby" by her mom Hannah, Mt. Juliet Middle School student Jules Atkinson latched on to competitive swimming at the tender age of seven and has never looked back.
The 12 year-old rising eighth grader is a member of the Middle Tennessee Swim Club and trains two hours a day, six days a week in the pool at the Jimmy Floyd Family Center.
Jules is presently ranked 14th nationally in the 11 and 12 year-old ranks in her favorite event -- the 200m butterfly.
Alex Major coached the MTSC program and thinks Jules has a high athletic ceiling.
"Earlier this season she was ranked as high as ninth in the nation her age," Major said.
"That's the top one percent of swimmers. We would hope in four years to be going to the Olympic trials, but we'll see.
"Finesse, timing and technique are so important in the butterfly, because she's so small. But she can really move."
Jules wasn't pushed into swimming.
"She loves it," says mom Hannah -- a physical therapist and a former volleyball player. During the school year Jules and her sister (Simone) are very regimented.
"They get up early for school, fix their breakfast, train after school, come home after practice to eat and finish their homework.
"She and her sister do sit-ups and push-ups before bed and they're in bed pretty early.
"This is not something we push them to do. They love swimming and push themselves.
"We live in Willoughby Station and they have a summer swim league for residents.
"At age seven Jules won the first event she ever competed in and after that -- she was hooked."
She brings home all A's on her report card and says math is her favorite subject.
Quiet at first, Jules opened up when talking about her routine.
"It takes a lot of effort because you have to come and train hard every day," she said.
"In team sports you can depend on others, in swimming you're out there by yourself. "We do multiple strokes in every practice to perfect our technique."
This past weekend Jules participated in and fared well in the Open Water Zone Championships in Florida, swimming in the ocean.
"Swimming in Florida was difficult, the water was choppy and there were more people in the water than what I am used to."
She competed a grueling 575m course in a time of 21:10.9 -- 14th in a crowded field of elite swimmers.
Atkinson and other members of the Middle Tennessee Swim Club will be competing June 16-18 in the Nashville Athletic Club-sponsored Summer Sizzler at Centennial Sportsplex.
According to Coach Major, she will be competing in several events, but not the butterfly.
"We're going to hold her out of the butterfly next week," Major said, "in the hope she can sneak up on some people in the Southeast regionals in July. I think by then she can have a nice time drop."
While thoughts of competing in the Olympic trials are certainly lofty goals, her mom is a little more grounded.
"I've love to see her get a scholarship, so she won't finish college with a lot of debt," Hannah said. "Anything beyond that would be great."