In a school year featuring numerous phenomenal female sports achievements, the Colorado junior swimmer and seven-time Olympic qualifier stands clearly above the crowd.
The list of potential winners for the 2011-12 MaxPreps Girls Athlete of the Year award could fill a record book.
Shelbi Vaughn (Mansfield Legacy HS, Texas)
, for instance, broke the national prep discus record three times – the last time at 198 feet, 8½ inches - and finished fourth in the Olympic trials at 195-9. And that is supposedly her second best sport. The 6-1 Vaughan has secured a volleyball scholarship to Texas A&M.
Sophomore Gabby Williams (Reed HS, Sparks, Nev.)
placed fifth at the Olympic trials in the high jump at 6 feet, 2¼ inches – just missing a national sophomore record – and she led her team to a state basketball title.
In softball, Kenzie Conrad (Keystone HS, La Grange, Ohio)
led the nation's No. 1 team to a 32-0 record, hitting .485 with 44 RBIs and 11 home runs while going 25-0 and a 0.74 ERA. Geri Ann Glasco (Oconee County, Watkinsville, Ga.)
not only went 19-0 on the mound with a 0.50 ERA, but she blasted a state-record 24 home runs.
Morgan Andrews (Milford, N.H.)
, only a junior, has averaged 2.64 points per game through three varsity soccer seasons, which pales in comparison to this: She played every minute of every game this spring in leading the U.S. Soccer Under-17 Women's National Team to qualification for this summer's FIFA U17 World Cup.
In volleyball, Nicole Dalton led Chaparral (Parker, Colo.)
to a 31-0 record and 5A state championship and registered 492 kills, 406 assists and 267 digs. The 6-foot-2 senior is headed to the University of Texas. Jordan Burgess led Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.)
to three straight state titles, this season by ripping down 553 kills and adding 366 digs.
Even with all the gaudy numbers, championship seasons and athletic feats among the girls, there was truly only one choice for the award: Missy Franklin, a 17-year old from Regis Jesuit HS (Aurora, Colo.)
, became the first female swimmer in U.S. history to qualify for seven Olympic events.
We're not talking the first prep star to qualify in seven events, but the first American female, period.
Franklin, who just completed her junior season, qualified in the 100-meter and 200 backstroke, the 100 and 200 freestyle and three relays, all at the Olympic Trials in Omaha last month.
The previous high at a single Olympiad was six events, most recently by Natalie Coughlin and Katie Hoff in 2008. Coughlin won six medals at those Olympics in Beijing.
"I can't believe I have seven events," Franklin told reporters afterward. "It's so overwhelming but so exciting. The whole week went really, really well."
Try 17 years plus.
Unlike many teenage athletic prodigies who skip high school competition because it is simply child's play, the personable and mature 6-foot-1 Franklin made a concerted effort to be a part of the prep experience at Regis Jesuit.
After winning five medals – three gold – at the 2011 World Championships, Franklin set two world records, one in October in the 200-meter backstroke (2 minutes, .03 seconds) and the other in December when she swam the anchor leg on the 400 medley relay (3:45.56).
For those accomplishments, she was the selected the 2011 Female Swimmer of the Year by FINA, the sport's governing body.
She could have skipped a measly prep season and no one would have made a single splash. Instead, she dove at the chance to be among her friends and classmates, the first time this season at a dual meet with rival cherry Creek (Greenwood Village, Colo.) in January.
MaxPreps senior writer and long time Colorado scribe Gerry Valerio was there and described Franklin this way: "She couldn't have been happier. She wore a huge smile throughout the meet, animatedly cheered teammates and traded hugs with competitors after every event."
Franklin enthusiastically celebrated the team's 163-152 win in the center of her home pool.
"I love swimming in the (Regis) bubble," she told MaxPreps. "I love being able to come out here and sort of make a mark on the pool and just know that I am part of the team and a part of Regis.
"The most important thing for swimming high school for me is keeping it fun. When you go to some of these big meets it can get really serious and the pressure can really get to you sometimes. … Here you can come have fun, just let everything go and get out and just swim and do what you love. That's so special."
So were the last six months for Franklin.
At the state swimming finals in Fort Collins, Franklin erased her own national record in the 200-yard (high school distances are in yards) freestyle in 1:43.15 and also captured her third-straight backstroke title in 52.76. She won her freestyle race by more than 8 seconds.
All that was nice work, but a precursor to a remarkable showing in Omaha last month, when she set an American record in the 100-meter backstroke (58.85), won the 200 backstroke (2:06.12), and finished second in the 100 freestyle (54.15) and 200 freestyle (1:56.79).
After her 100 backstroke victory, she tweeted "Dreams really do come true."
She's told reporters that the secret to her success is simply an unbridled passion for what she does.
"I love it with every part of my being," she said. "I absolutely love swimming. I love my team. I love my coach. I love everything about it and that's enough for me."
Franklin will likely be featured in every national sporting website/publication over the next month as the Olympics take center stage.
The demands and pressure are remarkable, especially for a kid who is barely eligible to drive. But between her devotion to the sport and the unyielding support from family and friends, she seems well-equipped to take on all challenges.
"Definitely, it definitely does (get to me), but I have the best support system in the entire world," Franklin told MaxPreps. "My friends and my family are behind me 100 percent, no matter what I do. Those days when I'm tired and exhausted, they always make me smile, always make me laugh. That's how I get through it – keep a good attitude and keep smiling."
According to Valerio, she did both during a post-meet news conference in seven months ago. He described her this way: "Composed beyond her years, Franklin impressively looked directly at each reporter when responding to their question. She couldn't have been more engaging or have seemed more genuine, especially when again talking about her teammates and her decision to swim for Regis this season."
"It was a really hard decision for me whether or not I was going to swim high school," Franklin said. "Junior year is super, super hard, and the academics alone are killing me. But on top of everything else, I knew even though there was going to be some really tough times it was all going to be worth it."