Molly Loftus epitomized dependability and success in the pool.

Whether she swims for the Staples girls swimming team, for whom she was a captain for this fall, the Westport YMCA Water Rats or next year in college, Loftus has always been consistent and has come through in big races. The Rats are especially confident she'll deliver for them at the YMCA National championships next month.

"Being with a great group of teammates, family and friends made me strive to improve and my coaches helped me out a lot," Loftus says.

Staples Coach Mike Laux appreciates what Loftus has meant to the program and bestowed upon her the Rich Rollins award. Rollins is Laux' predecessor and the award is given to the senior swimmer who has given her most to the team for the past four years.

"I felt very accomplished after my four years at Staples and I couldn't figure out a better way to end my career at Staples," Loftus says. "I was grateful to receive the Rollins award,"

Sophomore year, Loftus was the Block S team MVP.

"I always looked up to the older girls on the team and I never thought I'd get the award," Loftus recalls.

All four years, she earned All-FCIAC and All-State honors. Senior year, Loftus won the 500-yard freestyle at the FCIAC championships with a time 5:10.51 and at the Class LL championships (5:03.44).

"I was lucky to have a group of upperclassmen to set the tone early on and good underclassmen the last two years," Loftus says. "I looked up to the upperclassmen when I was younger and as an upperclassmen, I try to set the tone for the underclassmen."

Laux was impressed with her success from the moment Loftus began swimming for him.

"Dedication and hard work," Laux says on the key to Loftus' success. "She's an excellent, versatile and able swimmer with a good work ethic and a wonderful personality. "She swam four events for us all four years and we'll miss her a lot."

Distance events have been her forte since all four years for the Lady Wreckers. The longer the distance, the more comfortable and confident Loftus feels in the pool.

"It's mostly about having a different mindset and I have fun with it," Loftus says on how she became a distance swimmer instead of a sprinter. "I guess from an early age, I was more of a distance swimmer. Distance swimmers are aggressive and thrive on pounding ourselves with longer sets. We like to challenge ourselves."

For Staples, she swam the 200-yard freestyle and 500-yard freestyle (at home meets, the 200-meter freestyle and 400-meter freestyle) and two relays. Although most people see the 200-free as a distance event, for Loftus, it's more like a sprint because she swims the 1,000-meters and the mile for the Rats.

"There's definitely a strategy in the 200," Loftus says. "It's definitely a challenge and I have to change my mindset. I have to think faster and quicker and focus on the finer aspects of my race."

Loftus feels like she's in her element when swimming the 500-free.

"Even though it's not as long as the 1,000, I still see it as a distance event," Loftus says. "It's middle distance for me. I try to break it up into 100s [five intervals of 100 yards each] so I don't get overwhelmed by it."

The 1,000-free requires more endurance and Loftus adjusts her strategy for it.

"I break it up in half, the first 500 and the second 500," she says. "In the first 500, I try to stay relaxed and aggressive and maintain my speed for the next 500 so I can break through a wall and the race becomes easier."

Swimming the mile is the toughest, even for a distance-oriented swimmer like Loftus because it drains its participants. Nevertheless, she figures out a way to roll with it.

"I always have a plan for that one, I have to stay relaxed but make sure my muscles warm up," Loftus says. "It's hard if you try and it's hard if you don't try, so you might as well try."

Last year at YMCA Nationals, Loftus medaled in the mile by taking 16th place with a time of 17:18.

"It felt great and I hope to do better this year," Loftus says. "I was excited after my race but whenever I come out of the water [after swimming the mile], I'm very tired."

Water Rats Senior Coach Ellen Johnston said, "Molly has the ability to get into a rhythm and gets stronger as the training sets get longer. This transfers quite well to swimming the longer races. "

Swimming relays is another strength of hers. Loftus helped the Lady Wreckers out by swimming relays. She contributed to the team's success usually as the leadoff or anchor leg for the 200-yard freestyle and 400-yard freestyle relay teams.

"Definitely, practicing safe starts is important," Loftus says. "Maintaining a good position so your teammates can hold the lead or catch up is also important. If you're in a position where you have to catch up, you give it all you have."

One challenging aspect of relays for Loftus is that the events are like a sprint for her because she swims either 50 or 100 yards. Adjusting her mindset to handle the shorter distance isn't a problem because of her ability to see the big picture.

"Relays are definitely more exciting, which fuels you," Loftus says. "It's a matter of being in the moment, swimming with your teammates and your obligation to them. This often helps me get through sprinting events."

Life in the pool began for her at age 6. Loftus chose swimming because her older sisters Kellen and Emma swam. Kellen swam for Staples before graduating in 2006.

"I looked up to them when I was younger," Loftus says. "I tried other sports but swimming was what I was interested in. I like being free in the water and it feels natural to me. It draws a great group of people."

Leadership is a strength of hers as well as Loftus served as captain. She mostly led by example but also guided the team verbally when she needed to.

"It was an unreal experience and I never thought I'd get this close in my high school career," Loftus says. "I never thought I'd be with this [great] group of girls and finish my four years like this. From time to time, it helps to lead verbally as well but for the most part, I lead by example."

Academically, she excels in the classroom. Anatomy of physiology is her favorite subject.

"Swimming helps me manage my time better," Loftus says. "It creates more structure. I don't have too much free time and I always do something constructive. The biggest challenge is morning practice and I have to go to bed early the night before."

Next year, Loftus will be swimming at the Division I level. She's undecided about her major but would like to be a veterinarian.

"It's definitely going to be a challenge but I'll try to stay positive and have great influences on the team," Loftus says. "I'll try to stay on top of it with college life and swimming and hope to be successful there."