Highlands' Bonnett to join Kentucky swim team next week
Highlands graduation practice kept Bailey Bonnett from as much pool time as she wanted in recent days.
She didn't want to escape the heat; she's getting ready to compete.
The former Golden Rams standout, an eight-time WPIAL and four-time PIAA gold medalist, will join her new teammates at the University of Kentucky next week, about a week after Highlands' graduation Wednesday night.
“I'm very excited to go down and try to better myself and help out the team,” Bonnett said. “I just think it's going to be a really fun four years.”
Bonnett is getting a head start on her college career, taking summer classes at Kentucky and training with the team along with a handful of other members of the Wildcats recruiting class.
“We all have group messages, and we talk to each other,” she said. “I talk to most of the incoming freshmen like me, and I've seen some of the girls at other meets I've been to.
“I think it's good to go in the summer because then I get a chance to know the college better and know the teammates and the coaches and everyone like that. I think it'll be good to go down.”
In addition to training with the team, Bonnett expects to compete in a couple of meets Kentucky travels to over the summer, with the first one coming just days after she arrives in Lexington.
“The team atmosphere (is what) I would look forward to the most,” said Bonnett, who swam for the Fox Chapel Killer Whales in addition to Highlands. “Fox Chapel is a smaller team of the senior group, and so there's only two or three girls that I swim with every day. (At Kentucky) I have 30 girls swimming with me, and it'll be fun to all push each other in practice. All of us have the same goal, to try to get better. I think that will be fun.”
Since closing her high school career by winning the 200-yard individual medley and 100 breaststroke at the WPIAL and PIAA Class AA championships — setting the state record in the 100 breaststroke in the process — Bonnett has kept busy in the pool.
She competed at the 2017 Speedo Sectionals Region 2 in Virginia at the end of March and beginning of April, where she set a personal best in winning the 200 breaststroke and also finished third in the 100 breaststroke and fourth in the 200 and 400 IM.
“I did OK. It wasn't bad,” Bonnett said. “I had some good swims (and) I got some best times, so it wasn't a bad meet. But it wasn't my best.”
Aside from one small meet since, Bonnett spent most of her swimming time getting ready for her college career. She currently is swimming about three hours per day, a decrease from earlier this spring, and also is taking part in dry-land workouts.
“It's pretty much the same as it's been all year, except the practices are a little bit harder and more distance and just getting ready to go to Kentucky,” she said. “(There's) more underwater work, longer distance stuff.
“Everything's pretty much the same, just training. I'm not getting ready for meets like I was before. I'm just doing more distance stuff and not as much sprint and speed work.”
Where in high school Bonnett competed mostly against herself, always striving to post a new personal-best time, she's looking forward to the experience of swimming at the Division I level against high-caliber swimmers. She has experience at big-time meets, having competed in the Olympic trials last summer along with a bevy of other USA Swimming meets.
“I think it would push everyone who's in that situation,” Bonnett said of swimming with other top competitors. “If you're all doing it together, it's a lot harder to just give up. We'll be there together, and I think it'll be good.”