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Carter kids keep it in the family

Stacy Carter learned long ago not to bother her little brother before a swimming race. Justin is in his own world.

"He doesn't like to talk to people," Stacy said. "If I try to talk to him before a race, all he'll say is one-word answers."

Stacy couldn't be any more different.

She'll talk to anyone and everyone in an attempt to get her mind off the race.

"I just want to get out and go," Stacy said. "I try not to get nervous. I spend a lot of nervous energy.

"I just try to do anything to help take away the nerves."

Both approaches have worked just fine.

Justin won his second straight Sac-Joaquin Section championship in the 100-yard backstroke to go along with two Central California Conference championships.

Stacy also won two CCC titles with victories in the 100 back and 500 freestyle.

For the second straight year, the Carter siblings are the Sun-Star Swimmers of the Year.

There's no question that over the past decade, the Carters have been Merced County's first family of swimming.

It started with the eldest sibling, Brian, who won seven CCC championships.

Leslie came along to win eight conference titles.

Stacy wrapped up her career with eight championships and Justin has six heading into his senior year.

"We started to swim just after we learned to walk," Stacy joked.

Justin may be the top swimmer ever to come out of Merced.

Later this month, he'll fly to Omaha, Neb., to compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials.

"A day doesn't go by without somebody talking to me or me talking to myself about it," Justin said.

"I'm nervous. But I know it's something that is going to happen in about a month and there's nothing I can do to stop it."

Justin broke two CCC records at this year's championships with times of 1:55.31 in the 200 individual medley and 50.75 in the 100 backstroke.

"He's amazing every time I watch him," Stacy said. "He's like a shark in the water. The way he glides makes it seem like there's nothing to it."

Justin's drive is what sets him apart even from his brothers and sisters.

"He's always been competitive," Stacy said. "Even when he used to play soccer, he used to get so mad."

So even after winning his second straight section title in the backstroke, Justin was upset because he didn't break the section record.

"I'm still upset about that race," Justin said. "I try to do things the best I can. I try to do a sport perfectly. I know it's not possible, but I want to be as close to perfect as I can."

Justin has tried to instill his competitive drive into his older sister.

He's gone as far as purposely trying to make her mad before races to fire her up.

It hasn't worked.

"I've learned to let her do her own thing," Justin said. "I've tried so many times."

Don't take Stacy's more laid-back attitude as a lack of commitment, however.

She makes the 45-minute drive to train with the Clovis Aquatic Club five times a week -- right along with Justin.

The workouts include two hours in the pool and another 30 to 45 minutes in the weight room or workouts on dry land.

Stacy also will swim at Fresno Pacific next year.

"She's probably the hardest-working girl in the club," Justin said.

Stacy finished third in the section finals in the 200 freestyle (1:55.05) and seventh in the 100 backstroke (1:01.18).

It was a solid ending to a stellar high school career.

"I knew this was going to be my last year and I wanted to have fun," Stacy said. "My main goal was to break a minute in the 100 back and I did that."

Both swimmers have carried the family name proudly.

Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 285-2462 or via e-mail at sjansen@mercedsun-star.com.

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