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South Terrebonne swimmer eyeing state titles

South Terrebonne swimmer Payton Gold is looking to win a pair of state titles at next month's Division II state meet in Sulphur. (Photo by Chris Heller/Staff)

South Terrebonne sophomore swimmer Payton Gold has some unfinished business to take care of.

Gold is trying to do something that she came so close to accomplishing last season — winning an individual state championship.

As a freshman, Gold was in contention to win a pair of state titles but came up just short in each event, finishing second in the 100-yard freestyle and third in 50-yard freestyle.

One year later, the goal has not changed for Gold. She wants to win a state title at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association's Division II state swimming meet, scheduled for Nov. 22-23 at the SPAR Aquatic Center in Sulphur.

Gold said she has been working hard and is determined to make that dream a reality.

"I've been doing what I can to have a chance at winning a state title," Gold said. "I've been training hard, trying to diet and taking vitamins. I'm doing everything I possibly can to get that state title and all-American."

Today, Gold will take that first step to the state meet as she will compete in the Bayou District Meet at the Cut Off Youth Center.

"I'm pretty excited for the district meet," she said. "I'm anxious to see what kind of competition will be at the district meet."

If the 2013 Bayou District regular season was any indication, Gold may be well on her way to accomplishing those goals. She dominated the regular season and won nearly every event she competed in.

Gold also set her sights on the school record books this season, establishing five new individual marks and was part of two record-breaking relay teams. Gold broke school records in the 200-yard freestyle (2 minutes, 9.26 seconds), 200-yard individual medley (2:28.44), 50-yard freestyle (26.11), 100-yard freestyle (55.95), 500-yard freestyle (5:52.00), 200-yard medley relay team (2:15.43) and 400-yard freestyle relay team (4:32.57).

"That's pretty awesome in itself," Gold said. "It makes me feel accomplished, but I couldn't do it without the support of my family and friends. It's really awesome because it shows that my hard work is paying off. Hopefully, I can continue setting records in the future.

In 2012, Gold set school records in three other events — 100-yard backstroke (1:11.88), 100-yard breaststroke (1:21.93) and as a member of the 200-yard freestyle relay team (2:01.47).

Gold holds every South Terrebonne swimming record except the 100-yard butterfly, which was set by Julia Arceneaux in 2012.

South Terrebonne coach Casey Solet said she is not surprised by Gold's to dominate in the pool.

"I can put her in any event, and she will do whatever it takes to win," Solet said. "Also, whatever I put her in, she will go out and set the record. There is no doubt about it."

Gold said she started swimming at the age of 5 and quickly developed a love for the sport.

To become a championship swimmer, Gold said she has had to make some tough choices along the way. She gave up playing other sports and various activities so she can concentrate on swimming.

"I've always been involved in a lot of things since I was little," she said. "My parents put me into a lot of stuff, and they were very supportive. About two years ago, they realized the amount of potential I had in swimming, so I had to quit seven other sports to focus on this"

Gold said she trains with her dad, John Terry Gold Jr., about nine times a week at the Bayouland YMCA in Houma. She typically trains in the morning before school and after cheerleading practice in the afternoon.

Solet said the amount of work Gold puts in on a weekly basis is impressive.

"She definitely works hard. She mostly works with her dad, and they train in the a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the afternoon," Solet said. "She definitely puts in the hard work to be successful."

Although she is only a sophomore, Gold is already thinking about her future. Her dream is to swim for either LSU or Texas A&M and to compete in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Gold said she will continue to work hard to achieve those goals.

"Honestly, you cannot train properly for swimming if you didn't love the sport," she said. "It can be really hard at times, but when you love the sport, it makes everything worthwhile."