Stanford's Kate Dwelley wants to make the U.S. Olympic swim team but is too humble to talk about it.
The secret's out.
Dwelley begins the long road to the London Games at the 44th Santa Clara International Invitational, which opens Thursday at the George F. Haines Swim Center. She joins Olympic stars Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Natalie Coughlin at the four-day meet that she has entered for the past nine years.
Now the question is whether the Brentwood swimmer will join them at the 2012 Olympics after just missing the cutoff to make the U.S. team twice.
"Now is my time," said Dwelley, 22. "I'm trying to figure that out."
It will be a summer of transition for the farmer's daughter who found happiness at The Farm as the consummate teammate. After graduating last weekend with a degree in psychology, Dwelley will turn her attention toward such big meets in August as the U.S. championships at Stanford and the World University Games in China.
Over the next year Dwelley hopes to fulfill the promise she has held since surfacing as a top performer at the Terrapins Swim Club in Concord.
But it's not her nature to draw attention despite a statuesque 6-foot frame. Maurer noticed it four years ago when Dwelley daintily climbed onto blocks before races.She wasn't an imposing presence like six-time Olympic medalist Amy Van Dyken, who used to spit in opponents' lanes before big races.
Once diving in, however, Dwelley excels in the 100- and 200-meter freestyle. She is a 23-time All-American who finished second in the 100 freestyle at this year's NCAA championships.
Maurer is trying to help Dwelley marshal that success to become one of America's fastest sprinters.
"She doesn't have to be an angry Kate or a mean Kate," the coach said. "You can be a happy swimmer and have unbelievable success."
Dwelley has heard it since age-group swimming, where a coach encouraged her to show more disgust when losing.
"I tried that for a while, but it really drives me crazy," Dwelley said. "There are times I would say, 'I can't lose,' and then that would put me at a state of anxiety before I swam."
Dwelley started swimming at a community pool in Knightsen where her mother had worked as a lifeguard during high school.
The Dwelleys have deep roots in the East Bay, where they farm hundreds of acres in the far reaches of Contra Costa County. They also have a popular roadside fruit stand where Kate used to ring up customers at age 6.
But she didn't perform many chores that would evoke images of rural America. "I'm a poser," Dwelley said of her farming experience.
Nonetheless, the strong veins of pastoral life helped shape Dwelley, who wants to return to the San Joaquin River Delta to teach grade school after earning a graduate degree. Her father, Mark, who played football at Washington and UC Davis, is a third-generation Brentwood farmer. Her brother, John, who swam at Arizona State, is continuing the family tradition.
The farming values carried over to the pool because "you have to rely on yourself to get it done," said mother Jeannette, who also grew up on a farm in Brentwood.
While Dwelley possesses a streak of self-reliance, Maurer likes to describe her as angelic. When the swimmer appeared at the Avery Aquatic Center one recent day, she fit the description down to a crisp, white summer dress and golden hair out of an English fairy tale.
The image makes the story about her being recruited to join a gang fight all the more amusing for those who know Dwelley best. It happened during her senior year at Liberty High when a student needed backup.
"You're so big, your arms are so long, you'd be good at punching," she told Dwelley, who declined.
"If I tried to swing, I'd miss," she told her friend. "I don't think I could hurt anyone."
That stance might have to change, because it will take every ounce of fight Dwelley has to qualify for the Olympics.
Even if she won't say it.