Nine-year-olds Abby Dunford and Megan Corcoran are practically inseparable.
The fourth-graders attend Zachary Elementary School and are close friends. They’re swimming partners and teammates who train six days a week on the Tiger Aquatics swim team, led by coach Jeannine Malbrough, also the director of competitive aquatics.
The girls, whose mothers are both former competitive swimmers, have been swimming for years.
Prior to joining Tiger Aquatics, they competed year-round at Crawfish Aquatics in the junior division.
Lianne Crawford, Abby’s mother, swam for Canada and now races in triathlons and assists the girls with stroke technique and form.
“They are hardworking girls, both in at swimming and in school,” Crawford said. “In our house and in Megan’s, academics are first, sports are second.”
Crawford said the girls are known for not only how advanced they are at their age but also how hard they work at the sport.
“It’s not entirely results for the girls, but it is a piece of the puzzle. It’s about personal growth and self-improvement for them,” Crawford said. “It’s about them identifying hard work, watching it unfold and pay off in a positive way, however that may be.”
Both Abby and Megan said they like encouraging other children and being role models.
“That’s the best part,” Abby said.
Megan’s mother, Lisa Corcoran, a former distance swimmer from Wisconsin who teaches at Zachary Elementary, knows that swimming, like all other sports, requires dedication, goal-setting, learning how to become part of a team and plenty of hard work.
For Abby and Megan, their hard work has paid off in several state championships, which have earned the two young swimmers several medals and awards.
Megan has won gold medals in the 200-meter medley relay and 200-meter freestyle relay; second place in the 50- and 100-meter butterfly; third place in the 100-meter backstroke; and earned top-five finishes in the 50-meter backstroke and freestroke and 100- and 200-meter freestrokes.
Abby won silver medals in the 200-meter medley relay, 200-meter freestyle relay and top-10 finishes in the 100-meter butterfly and backstroke and 200-meter freestroke.
As 9-year-olds, they’ll compete in two more state championship events in March and July in the 10-and-under age group.
Recently, they competed in their first Fennwood Swim/Run for Fun, an event consisting of a 100-yard swim followed by 1-mile run. Abby finished third overall, while Megan finished fourth.
“They are highly motivated little girls and probably already the most talented females who will ever come out of this district,” Crawford said.
Despite training two to three hours every day, they’re like many other fourth-grade girls — they listen to Taylor Swift, talk about boys and love to be silly.
Both Abby and Megan said they’d eventually like to swim in Division I NCAA and one day compete in the Olympics.
Abby, who has dual citizenship in both the United States and Canada, intends to train and race in both countries nationally.
“It’s great to see my daughter take on a sport I loved so dearly,” Crawford added.
The girls recently enjoyed a two-week break from training by relaxing on the beach in Florida together, but since returning to school and Zachary, they’ve begun training again.
“They’re still little girls into little girl things,” said Corcoran. “But they’re totally hardcore, too. We love it.”
Corcoran and Crawford discuss with their daughters all the time about being on the national swim team and what that requires — acting in a kind and respectful way every race and training harder than everyone else.
“Lisa and I have been through it so we help them a lot by providing a very supportive environment for them,” said Crawford. “If they win they win and if they lose they lose. But then they dive in and try again.”