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The best may still be ahead

Petaluma High School Junior Riley Scott is back in school and back with the Marin Pirates after swimming for the USA in the World Junior Swimming championships in Dubai.

Published: Friday, October 4, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 at 3:19 p.m.

There is no, or very little, rest for the weary or the successful.

Petaluma High School student Riley Scott, just finished with one of the most successful summers ever by a Petaluma swimmer, managed to take a couple of weeks off after competing for the United States in the World Junior championship in Dubai, but is already back in the pool. Her first meet with her club team, the Marin Pirates, will be this weekend.

Scott begins her season with some lofty goals and some cherished memories. “It was an incredible experience,” she says of her trip to Dubai. “It was awesome that I was able to achieve it (making the U.S. team).”

Not only was competing in the FINA World Junior Championships an outstanding accomplishment, the location in Dubai made it even more memorable for Scott, who is very interested in world affairs and especially the Middle East. “The only television station we received in English was CNN and we kept hearing about U.S. sending warships because of Syria, and then you realize we're very close,” she said.

Scott swam the 200-meter breaststroke for the U.S., finishing 15th and not qualifying for the finals. The swim, was disappointing, but not the experience. “It wasn't what I wanted,” she says of her time, but I learned a lot. She swam 2:35.42 in Dubai after swimming a personal best 2:31.11 in the U.S. Open to earn her spot on the U.S. team. There were a number of contributing factors — from the setting, to the heat, to not swimming until the final day. But Scott understands that she has other big meets ahead and with each swim she gains experience.

In addition to swimming for the U.S. in Dubai, Scott was named to the 2013-2014 National Junior team. To make the team, swimmers had to have one of the top six times in specific national or world events. Scott had the best time of any junior in the 200 breast.

Just 16, her ultimate goal is the Olympics. The first step is to qualify for the Olympic Trials, and that includes continuing with her training regimen that has her in the pool in Marin at 5:30 each morning. That means getting up at 4:38 a.m. after spending the previous day at school and doing homework. She estimated that she spends 20 to 22 hours a week on her swimming, a time period that jumps to 40 hours on the weeks she has a meet.

Even as she prepares for what she hopes will be many more big meets in her future, Scott has her memories of a visit to a city that proved to be both exotic and familiar.

“Dubai is right out in the desert. The buildings sort of shoot up right out of the desert,” she observed. “It kind of looks like an American city, but there is so much wealth it is amazing.” Even though the Americans were very close to one of the most potentially dangerous regions in the world, Scott said at no time did they feel threatened when they went into the city. “We had two body guards and our managers, but we always felt safe,' she said.

Then there was the heat. It was over 100 degrees every day. “It was so hot that when we took a camel ride we had to do it at 1 a.m. when it was only 90 degrees,” Scott said.

Scott and the other Americans soon discovered they were semi-celebrities. They also discovered that they had some very valuable trading commodities. “Everyone wanted anything from America,” Scott said.

“I was able to make some really nice trades.

But, the highlight for Scott was the friends she made on the U.S. team. “We work so hard and go through such difficulties that we become really close, really fast,” she explained. “We all know what it means to be a swimmer.” She said her fondest memory was “definitely cheering in the stands with my teammates for the finals. We were so loud. It was great just to cheer and bond in the stands.”

Now she is back with her teammates and friends on the Marin Pirates and she is looking forward to a big season not only for herself, but also for her club.

“I think this season is going to be super,” she said. “We have a good team. I have a great time on the Pirates and I'm really excited to get started.”

Although a junior, Scott is already being contacted by colleges. “I get a lot of emails and letters,” she said. “There are definitely some schools I'm interested in. “I have lots of friends who are athletes and I expect to get recommendations and information from them and my family to help me learn about the recruiting process.”

Going to high school, swimming for one of the top clubs in the Bay Area, dealing with college recruiters, trying to qualify for the Olympic Trials and still finding time to hang out with her friends and attend an occasional Trojan football or basketball game might seem like a lot for a 14-year-old, but Scott has been balancing a similar schedule since she was 9 years old and has done it well enough to earn a national reputation and a swim in a world championship competition.

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