On the starting block, Xandra Pryor is focused.
Standing above the pool, loosening the muscles in her arms and legs one last time before she sets up for the starter pistol, she goes through her game plan. The details in her swim will be measured not just in time but by the efficiency of her strokes, kicks and breaths as she takes her position. The Highland junior fights through the antsy seconds before the race, taking control of her emotions as she awaits her entry into the water.
She's been here before.
Since she was 3 years old, Pryor has spent countless hours swimming laps, perfecting her stroke and remaining focused. The 100-meter butterfly specialist knows she isn't swimming just for herself but for her team. Swimming might be an individual sport, but for Pryor, every event and every relay is for the team.
"The more I get in the water, the more competitive I get," she said. "We have a role on the team, and I want to do my best."
Finishing second in the Class 4A 100-meter butterfly and fifth in the 200-meter individual medley was her contribution to Highland's eighth-place finish last season. For Pryor, this becomes a motivating factor entering this season, a chance to make her mark in the water and help the captain lead her team.
"That's the trick: You have to balance the social with swimming or else you'll resent swimming," Pryor said. "Swimming is supposed to be fun."
Pryor's discipline and attitude in the pool are a swimming coach's dream. Highland coach Wes Johnson said her dedication to her education and prowess in the water make her a role model for the team.
"She doesn't know how to have an offseason," Johnson said. "Xandra is a great athlete."
Pryor is accustomed to accomplishing big things. She has been involved with the Girl Scouts since the third grade. Through her experiences in volunteering, she has learned the work she does with her troop affects not just her community but the world at large.
Hurricane Ike decimated the Bahamas island of Inagua in 2008. Buildings were destroyed, homes leveled and schools left in ruin. Working with her Girl Scout troop, Pryor helped raise money and organized book drives to rebuild the razed library in Matthew Town. Visiting the island, she and her troop worked with the displaced citizens and rebuilt the children's section of the new library.
"You wouldn't think that rebuilding a library wouldn't change them that much, but it did," Pryor said. "You knew that we made a big impact for them."
She was conferred her Silver Award, which the organization says on its website is the highest award a Cadette can earn from the Girl Scouts, for her efforts.
Pryor, a member of the National Honor Society who carries a 4.0 grade-point average, always has had an interest in science, specifically biology. She wants to pursue a medical degree when she enters college in two years and plans to major in bioengineering. But she remains focused on what's important now. Her life is driven by school, Girl Scouts and swimming.
"We have a really good chance of winning state this year because we have a lot of up-and-coming new swimmers," Pryor said. "We've worked really hard to do the best we can, and I'm excited about this season."
Highland swimmer gives back
Xandra Pryor will join her Girl Scout troop next summer in Romania, where it will work with an orphanage transitioning children into foster care.
• Her Girl Scout troop is raising money for the trip to Romania by making wares and selling them at the Scout House.
• She would like to swim at the collegiate level for Stanford or UC Berkeley.