At 8 years old, Madison Hepner is a third-grader earning herself a reputation as a big fish going for gold.
The young competitive swimmer already has enough medals to sink to the bottom of the pool if she wore them all at once.
In March, she participated in the Junior Olympics championships for short-course swimming and won a medal in all six events she entered. She received four gold medals, a silver and a bronze .
A month before that, she beat her peers in winning seven gold medals in the state of Nevada championships, also claiming honors as the high point winner for girls 8 or younger.
"It feels good, really good," Madison said.
She swims competitively for the Clark County Sandpipers of Nevada Swimming Team and does laps with swimmers twice her age in fun runs.
The youngster also is training for her second triathlon in June.
Competition is Madison's fuel, her father, Charlie Hepner, said.
"She always wants to be first," he said. "We'll be running around before school, she wants to be the first one at school."
Madison attends Allen Elementary School, 8680 W. Hammer Lane.
Madison began swimming three years ago following her two older sisters. She started swimming in the family pool at an early age, and the transition to five-day-a-week training with the Sandpipers was a smooth one, she said.
Her family carts her about 40 miles each day from their northwest home to the Desert Breeze Aquatic Center, 8275 W. Spring Mountain Road.
Her parents and three sisters also travel with her to weekend swim competitions around Nevada, Southern California and Utah.
"That's why we bought the motor home," Hepner said.
Madison is to the point about her favorite stroke.
"The butterfly," she said. "I like how it feels to stretch my arms."
When she's in the zone, Madison keeps her thought process simple, too.
"I just think what my coaches tell me," she said. "I feel like there are people right behind me, and I have got to beat them no matter what."
She hopes to swim competitively though college, "and get a good education," she said, and possibly compete in the Olympics.
She hopes to qualify for the Junior Olympics long course events, set for April 30 and May 1.
Her coach, Debbie Meek, said Madison's competitive spirit will carry her far.
"She can step up and compete at every level at age 8," she said. "It will help in the future to step up. She is a truly hard worker and good leader."
Contact Centennial and Paradise View reporter Maggie Lillis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 477-3839.