By Leila Dycus staff writer

Fourteen Olympic swimmers made their way to the University of Georgia last week for an All Star swim meet and one of Morgan County’s top swimmers completed along side them. “It was an amazing experience because of the atmosphere in and around the pool,” said Morgan County swimmer Mary Claire Cardwell. “It gave me an idea about what the top level of swimming is like.” 2014 Bulldog Grand Slam was hosted last week, July 10 through the 13, at The University of Georgia’s Ramsey Center. Mary Claire Cardwell, a Morgan County High School student, was one of many who participated in the meet. Cardwell was chosen by her coaches at Athens Bulldog Swim Club to participate in two backstroke events. Athens Bulldog Swim Club (ABSC) is USA-Swimming registered organization that hosted the Grand Slam event. The Bulldog Swim Club is an organization that is based at The University of Georgia’s Gabrielsen Natatorium. ABSC offers different programs from beginning swimming to competitive swimming. Cardwell swam in the 100 and 200-meter backstroke events. “As cliché as it sounds, hard work really does pay off and you get out what you put in,” said Cardwell. Mary Claire swam personal bests in her two events. In her best event the 100-meter backstroke Cardwell landed in 45 out of 67. She said that that’s the downside to competing in such a high-powered field.

The highlight of the Bulldog Grand Slam for Cardwell was being able to swim in a meet with the 14 Olympic swimmers. Among the list of Olympians were Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. Phelps and Lochte are both working on making comebacks for different reasons. Phelps is coming out of retirement and Lochte from a knee injury. The Bulldog Grand Slam was one of the last meets for top-level swimmers to compete in before nationals in early August. The field of competitors also had some of the top women swimmers including Allison Shmitt and Shannon Vreeland. Schmitt and Vreeland were former UGA swimmers who returned to a familiar pool last weekend. Megan Romano, a NCAA champion and former UGA swimmer, also participated. For Morgan County’s Mary Claire Cardwell the Bulldog Grand Slam was a chance to swim with some of her idols. Swimming her personal best times added to the experience.