FLOSSMOOR | Homewood-Flossmoor assistant coach Jeannette LaPlante remembers Amber Barney when she first started swimming.
"I remember that smile on her face — she always had one," LaPlante said. "I remember her enthusiasm and how much she loved swimming."
Barney still has that smile and her enthusiasm has not waned.
"I just fell in love with swimming and I am glad I did," Barney said. "I have really enjoyed being on the swimming team."
Barney and her H-F teammates will compete in today's Lincoln-Way North Sectional. She will compete in the 100-yard butterfly and 200 freestyle, and will be on the 200 and 400 free relay teams.
"My time has come down in the fly to 1:02 and last year I just missed qualifying," Barney said. "I remember how tough it was, but I put in a lot of time and have had a good season."
Only those who finish first or hit the state qualifying standard earn a trip to the state meet at New Trier. In the 100 fly, it is 58.94.
"She really has put in the time and is really a lot of fun," Vikings coach Tim Caldwell said. "Amber just loves swimming and she is a good teammate."
Teammate Kelly Morrissey said Barney's smile and attitude rubs off.
"She always picks you up," Morrissey said. "She won't let you get down. Amber also leads by example and by being a good swimmer."
Barney leads with her involvement in the Homewood-Flossmoor High School peer helpers club. The group goes to local schools and encourages youth to do the right thing.
"I think that is important that you be a role model for the younger kids," Barney said. "We talk to them about issues and certainly encourage them to say "No!' to bad things. There is a lot going on for a teen and there is peer pressure."
She said she got a joy out of going to her old school, James Hart Elementary School.
"It was neat to see those kids and to realize that was me a few years ago," Barney said. "I think you have that responsibility to go back and to teach the younger kids about what to do when they are in a difficult situation."