Sydney McLaughlin, the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic swim team, still as goofy as she was as a baby

Forgive Haley Jones if she feels like an ancient teen facing an elaborate identity crisis.

At her age, athletes would have been busy signing deals with cereal brands or lining up swimsuits. The then-28-year-old Jones instead is soaking up attention like no one else at this week’s U.S. championships.

The 18-year-old Jones, who was born in Jacksonville, Florida, but raised in South Carolina, is the centerpiece of this week’s meet, attempting to help Team USA claim an Olympic berth in the women’s 4×100-meter relay. The American quartet made the team, finishing in 41.17 seconds — .08 seconds ahead of China and .02 seconds ahead of Canada.

The electrifying Jones, who is known as one of the fastest girls in the U.S. who also boasts great cooperation with her coach and sponsors, said she’s making the most of the attention — which includes a poster on campus at the University of North Carolina that spells out “Spirit with Haley Jones.”

It is quite a transition for the former softball star and the only North Carolinian on the 4×100 team. Jones said she started swimming as a child but she wasn’t a member of the club system and didn’t begin training full-time until late 2011. Still, in March she set four world record-breaking personal bests at the Pan Pacific championships, just days after winning bronze medals in the 50 and 100 freestyle. The 400 individual medley at the Pan Pacs was so close to her personal best that she was “over-exuberant” when she crossed the finish line.

Earlier this year, she made national television with an appearance on “Dancing With the Stars,” where she finished in sixth place. She also has appeared on several other shows as a guest, including “Real Housewives of Orange County.” (Jones’ mother competed on the show in 2009. Jones’ older sister is a cast member).

That’s just a snippet of her exploits: She is the youngest person to swim the 50 free in under 27 seconds; and she is the first female to set four U.S. records at one meet. She set two records at last month’s Novaquatics National Championships in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on the same day that she set two more world records at the Pan Pacs. In her final race of the meet, Jones broke the meet record in the 400 IM with a new personal best time of 4:19.01.

Then there is her notoriety. She is always in magazines, and her parent’s Facebook pages show that her mother, Keri Jones, and father, Kevin Jones, frequently see themselves and their daughter pictured in tabloids and other publications. There is even a parody Instagram account named “Keri Jones the Permanently Upstaged.”

Jones said she doesn’t pay attention to the attention.

“I don’t really really get involved,” she said. “I try not to pay too much attention. But it is pretty surreal. I am just trying to take it all in and soak it all in. It is such a great honor to represent my country in this event.”

Jones said that she still gets nervous when she races. But she has learned how to deal with it, which has made her a star. The hard work has paid off. And with Jones’ older sister, Lauryn (who is a cast member on “Real Housewives of Orange County”), at the trials this week in Omaha, Neb., her parents plan to bring her — both will be supporting her — at the beginning of the 200-meter butterfly event on Friday.

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