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Elites enjoy competing at high school level

Missy Franklin was worried about the distraction her presence on her Regis Jesuit team would cause, but ultimately decided to swim her senior season with teammates she calls "sisters." Courtesy of the Franklin family

When Bruce Springsteen sang of has-beens and their glory days, surely he did not mean kids like Missy Franklin. And no, not because the single was released 10 years before she was born.

As it turns out, Franklin and the handful of teenagers like her who have experienced glory in the form of world records and international fame before they're old enough to vote don't typically walk around the halls of their high schools wearing their Olympic medals.

But some, like bronze medalist Lia Neal, a senior at the Convent of the Sacred Heart School in Manhattan, N.Y., proudly sport their school swim team sweatshirts.

The hunger to be "normal" is why Franklin -- she of the five Olympic medals (four of them gold) -- turned down an estimated $5 million in endorsements to compete for her high school's swim team this year and the University of California next year. And it is also why, ironically, no one was more worried about returning to the Regis Jesuit pool than Franklin.

Well aware of the logistical circus created by her past participation in high school swim meets, and the suggestion that she might be taking anything away from her teammates or competitors, the 17-year-old's list of pros and cons for going back this year had plenty of cons.

"Missy felt just sick about it, terrible," said Franklin's mother, D.A. "She felt, 'High school swimming is a place where I can relax and just be Missy, be with my friends on the team and in the state, just have fun and enjoy it.' … She didn't want it to be The Missy Show."

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