ZACHARY, LA (WAFB) - The last time an 11-year-old swam faster than Abby Dunford, Gerald Ford was president. The Zachary middle-schooler has been swimming since she was 6-years-old. She has been leaving other swimmers in her wake almost as long.
Dunford swims for the 11 to 12-year-old team at Tiger Aquatics. Last year, she was the Louisiana 10-year-old state champion. Most of her times were better than the boys'. "Wow," Dunford thought at the time, "I'm pretty good at this."
That may be an understatement. Just ask her coach, Jeannine Malbrough. As the Tiger Aquatics head coach, Malbrough has watched Dunford break four 10 and under state records, and four state records for 11 to 12-year-old swimmers. "And she's only 11," Malbrough said, "She has an entire year to continue to break records."
Earlier this month, Dunford did something that an 11-year-old has never done. Her 500 meter (20 laps) freestyle time of 5:06.24 broke the 41-year Louisiana state record by more than a second. "I was really shocked," said Dunford. "I really wanted the record. It was great. I was so happy."
"She just knows how to get to the wall first," said Dunford's mother, Lianne Crawford, who was also a competitive swimmer. She sees more records in her daughter's future. "She'll probably try and break them all," Crawford laughs. "That would be her. She has them all written down on the walls in her room."
Dunford's 1000 meter freestyle time of 10:25 is currently ranked first in the country in her age group, as are her state record 200 meter freestyle (1:56.0) and her 500 meter freestyle. Dunford also holds the state record in the 200 backstroke (2:11.13), and nine of her events rank in the top ten in the country.
"She never feels defeated. There are no limits when it comes to her training," said Malbrough. "The hardest part is challenging her."
With performances like that, one cannot help but wonder if Olympic gold may be in Dunford's future. It's something Dunford is already thinking about. "I do want to go that far, but I just have to keep on training and being the best I can be," she said.
Dunford's next chance to break another Louisiana record will be a the State Swim Meet in Baton Rouge this March.