The York YMCA Swimming program has a history of serious success.
Its athletes have won medals and championships galore, competed for U.S. national teams and earned NCAA Division I college scholarships.
One of its swimmers, however, is about to go where no York YMCA swimmer has gone before — the Youth Olympic Games.
Meghan Small, 16, was selected for the all-expenses-paid honor earlier this month and will represent the United States at the 2014 event in Nanjing, China. The competition will take place from Aug. 16-28, with the swimming events set for Aug. 17-22. She is one of just four 17-and-under girls selected for the American team.
"I was very surprised," Small said of her selection. "Originally they were unsure if I was going to be allowed to go or not because only three women and (three) men were going to be taken. But, in the end, they decided to take four. I'm very lucky."
Small is no stranger to big-time meets. She recently won YMCA national titles in the 200 individual medley, 200 freestyle, 200 backstroke and was second in the 100 backstroke. She was also a member of the U.S. National Junior Team and was part of a girls' 800-meter freestyle relay team that destroyed the national record at last summer's Junior National Championships.
Still, she considers being selected for the Youth Olympic Games "by far" the biggest swimming honor she's ever received.
She'll make the trip to China without her parents or her York YMCA coach, Michael Brooks. Instead, she'll be accompanied by members of the U.S. Swimming staff. It will also be her first trip outside of North America.
"(I'm) very, very excited," she said. "I've traveled without my parents, but never without my coach, so it will be very (nerve-wracking), but very exciting trip."
Small expects to swim in her specialty, the 200 IM, but also hopes to compete in the 200 free, 100 fly and possibly the 100 back and 200 back.
Small's ability to excel in various events can be attributed to several factors, according to her coach.
"She works very hard, has good 'feel' and has worked on her stroke technique to the point where she has four very good strokes (that is rare), and she is an iron-tough racer," Brooks said.
It certainly doesn't hurt that Small spends about 14 hours each week in the pool, in addition to dry-land training.
"Although swimming is a grueling sport, it makes me feel extremely accomplished and has allowed me to experience things most kids will never have the opportunity to do."
Going to China is one of those opportunities, and her training in York helped to make it happen.
Small has been swimming for Brooks at the York YMCA for the past five years. She commutes from her home just south of the Pennsylvania line in Carroll County, Md. She attends Manchester Valley High School, which does not offer swimming.
"I visited (the Graham Aquatic Center at the York YMCA) for a meet and thought the facility was amazing. So, the next week I went and talked to Michael and I was swimming for them soon thereafter," she said.
It's likely that an NCAA Division I scholarship will soon be in Small's future. Brooks said her times as a sophomore in high school would have qualified her for the NCAA Division I Championships.
Small, however, has bigger goals. One day she would like to compete in the actual Olympic Games.
"That's always been a goal of mine," she said. "(Going to the Youth Olympic Games) is just another step in that direction."
Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.