Analyzing Northwest junior Nikki Daniels' swimming takes some time because she appears to have every single vital attribute.
From her shoulders to her feet, she's built perfectly for swimming. Throw in work ethic, drive and the deep desire to win, and she has become one of the state's top swimmers.
Daniels hopes to defend her title in the 100-yard breaststroke at the Class 6A swim meet today and Saturday at Topeka's Hummer Park.
"I want to be faster than last year, I want to swim as fast as I can," said Daniels, who set the City League 100 breaststroke record for the second straight year (1 minute, 2.29 seconds).
Daniels heads into the 6A meet — this is the first girls state meet with two classes — with the fastest time in the 100 breaststroke by nearly six seconds, and the top 200 individual medley (2:08.92)
Much of Daniels' success can be traced to her physical attributes.
"She is a prime specimen of an athlete," Northwest coach Sacia Quattlebaum said. "She's a very very strong-looking athlete all around. It wouldn't matter what sport she was playing or doing, she looks very strong."
A swimmer's shoulders are extremely important to move through the water.
"Besides the kick, your shoulder muscles are really what's working the majority of the time to propel you through the water, no matter the stroke," Quattlebaum said.
The fear of shoulder injuries is real. Daniels, who is also a hitter on the volleyball team, doesn't lift weights.
"I do a lot of core training to build strength, I do running, and volleyball helps out a lot," Daniels said. "But a lot of my muscle mass is hereditary."
Her father, Bob, was a football player Kansas State in the early 1980s, while her aunt, Jeanne, the North girls basketball coach, played basketball at Kansas State.
"I have broad shoulders, which helps me," Daniels said. "Swimmers have broad shoulders; that's a trend. And my long arms help, too."
Daniels also has slim hips, is tall (5-foot-10) and has muscular legs.
Her size 11 feet play a major factor. In the breaststroke, swimmers kick with the bottom of their foot.
Daniels' kick is so effective that opposing coaches often talk about it.
"There are coaches who ask, 'what is it about her kick that makes it so efficient and powerful,' " Quattlebaum said. "I always say that she's got the height that keeps her hips up high and her muscles; she's just strong."
Daniels is being courted by Division I swimming programs and plans to take five official visits to colleges in the fall, including Texas A&M, North Carolina, Arkansas and Minnesota.
Two intangibles, worth ethic and competitiveness, give Daniels an extra edge.
"I coached girls swimming for 25 years, and she's one of the hardest workers I had," said Doug Vannaman, who coached at Northwest until he retired following the 2009 season. "From the time she steps into the pool until the time she steps out, she gives it more than 100 percent."
Daniels, who competes year round, also swims best against top competition.
Quattlebaum said that Daniels, who will also swim the 200 medley relay and 400 freestyle relay, is often so far ahead at the end of a race that she doesn't have to work hard.
At the state meet each of the past two seasons, Daniels cut two seconds off her personal best time.
"When I have good competition, I go fast," Daniels said with a laugh. "I guess I kick it into a different gear."
Yet another essential to success.