MERRILL - Everyone in Merrill knew Amber Winter had potential.
"In the pool, she goes hard," senior Trinity Kanitz said.
But not even Amber's mom thought she had this much potential.
"Did we think she'd go where she is right now?," said Kristie Winter, Amber's head coach. "We had high hopes, but we definitely didn't have any assumptions."
Amber broke Merrill's 100-yard breaststroke record, helped break a 200-yard medley record and made state, all as one of the newest swimmers in the Jays' formidable lineup.
"They're just like my sisters, so just having that team spirit overall at all those swim meets definitely help," Amber Winter said.
Amber might be a freshman, but she doesn't swim like one.
That's because club swimming keeps her in the pool all year.
"It kind of gets you prepared because you know what you have been doing season-round," Amber Winter said. "When you come to the high school season, you arrive in shape and you just want to keep cutting off time."
Offseason swimming isn't just about staying in physical shape.
It also gives Amber and her teammates the experience needed to power through mentally.
"We know we're going make it through," Kanitz said. "The burn is only going to last for a certain amount of time. We're going to feel sore but afterward, we're going to feel great."
"When you've been to the 12 and under state meet, when you've been to the 13-under state meet, all that pressure starts to come off and you learn how to perform," Kristie Winter said.
All that training means Amber competes toe-to-toe with swimmers from much larger schools.
"We definitely put up a fight a lot of the time," Amber Winter said.
The teammates fighting alongside her couldn't be more proud.
"She's strong-willed and confident," Kanitz said. "She's amazing."
Merrill will compete in five different events at state.
Lakeland, Rhinelander, Tomahawk and Medford are all sending swimmers as well.