It was the third time Panther Creek swimmer Henriette Stenkvist had been summoned to the podium to receive a first-place medal for a conference championship event.
As she stood in front of her peers, a boys' swimmer - trying to catch Stenkvist's attention out the corner of her eye - motioned for Stenkvist to bite into the medal. Other swimmers cracked smiles, hoping to see her take part.
Stenkvist said she doesn't remember seeing him, but isn't surprised.
Everyone knows about Stenkvist's summer plans, and she often gets questions - or in this case, some playful teasing - about them.
"Somehow, they find out," she said.
Ranked the 16th-best high school girls' swimmer in the United States, Stenkvist hopes to qualify for this summer's 2012 Olympics in London to compete for "her" country - Sweden.Claiming her homeland
Stenkvist and her family moved from Sweden to the United States when she was 10, first to Houston for five months and then to Cary.
Her father, Carl Stenkvist, is an American of Swedish descent, while her mother Rosmarie is a native Swede.
Carl said he wanted to move to a warm climate. But when the family arrived in Cary, it also was a perfect location for Henriette to blossom at something that had always come naturally to her, even as a kid.
"We'd go to the beach and she'd be more under water than over water," said Carl.
Today, Henriette - who already has signed to swim next year at the University of Southern California - swims three hours a day at Cary's Triangle Aquatic Center. Sometimes she goes twice a day.
Swimming was never pushed on Henriette. Neither was her determination to represent Sweden, and that part caught her parents off-guard. As a group, the Stenkvist family - which includes older brother Joel - has only been back to Sweden once.
"I definitely feel more like Sweden is my home country as opposed to the U.S.," Henriette said. "So I definitely want to represent Sweden - and I have for the past two or three years."
The Swedish women's swimming team has only won seven Olympic medals and no golds. Carl said he thought Henriette's decision might be based on those numbers - it's far easier to make the Swedish Olympic team as an 18-year-old than it is the American team.
But Rosmarie Stenkvist could see it coming.
"Even before she started talking about the Olympics, she started talking about how she would like to swim in Sweden or for Sweden some time - (it was) maybe just a few years after we moved here," Rosmarie said.
Henriette joked the language most often used in the Stenkvist household is "Swenglish."
Though Henriette speaks without accent, English is her second language.
"I really don't want to lose the language," she said. "So I try to speak it as much as possible."
While other family members have crossed the Atlantic to visit one another, no Stenkvist has traveled between the two more than Henriette, who has swum and trained with Swedish clubs for years.Big races ahead
Although she's won five state championships - including one relay - the moment Henriette knew she had a bright future in the sport came in March 2010, at the Texas Grand Prix in Austin.
After winning the 200-yard backstroke and setting a new Swedish national record, Stenkvist was followed by a judge wanting to perform a drug test - which wasn't a bad thing.
"I get to take a drug test!" she told her friends, who shared her excitement.
Only top swimmers need to take them, so being shadowed by an official wanting a urine sample was a big moment for Henriette, though there are bigger ones still to come.
There is just one more high school race left for her - Saturday's 4A state championship. Panther Creek, which placed third last year, is expected to contend for a title.
Stenkvist said her Panther Creek teammates were a family, and hopes to win the school's first swimming title with them.
Like the swimmer at the conference meet, her teammates like to tease her. "Don't hurt the Olympian!" they joke.
"Hey, I haven't been to the Olympics; I'm not an Olympian yet," she replies.
And she's right. Nothing is official yet.
In March, Stenkvist will need to clinch her spot on Sweden's national team at an official qualifying event - the Indianapolis Grand Prix. If she qualifies, it may be May before she finds out whether or not she made the team.
But whether it's a state championship, a qualifying event - or the Olympics - Henriette is OK with the pressure that comes with what lies ahead.
"When I get nervous about my meet, that's when I race my best," she said.