Pam Minthorn, like most people, is a dreamer. Unlike most, Minthorn makes many of her dreams come true.

When Minthorn was 9, she knew a girl who graduated from high school and went on to receive an academic scholarship to Stanford.

"Everyone was saying how great it was that she went to Stanford," said Minthorn. "And when I was listening, I said 'Wow, I want to go to Stanford too.' I knew my grades wouldn't be good enough, so I thought it would be cool if I could get an athletic scholarship."

Nine years and many grueling hours later, Minthorn's adolescent dream became a delightful reality as the world class swimmer from Darnestown received a full scholarship to Stanford.

However, when Minthorn was offered the scholarship to the California school, she didn't know if she would go. "About 20 or 25 schools talked to me . . . and I tried really hard not to base my decision on my dream," she said.

The Quince Orchard High graduate hopes one dream achieved can become a vehicle to reach another.

"Ever since I was little, I was dreaming about going to the Olympics," she said. "The Stanford coach told me that if I trained hard, I could break Mary T. Meagher's world record in the 200 butterfly {2:05.9}. My ultimate goal is to break the world record in the Olympics so I get a gold medal."

Minthorn's best in the 200 butterfly is 2:11.84, but chasing goals is already familiar to Minthorn.

Last year, she won the 200 butterfly at the U.S. national winter meet in Chapel Hill, N.C., and the 100 and 200 butterfly at the summer national meet in Los Angeles.

Minthorn's run at the record books was slowed throughout the winter because of a long bout with mononucleosis that severely curtailed her training.

Finally feeling better, she last week returned from a two-week training camp with the national team in Colorado Springs. She has her sights on this year's national meet in Austin, Tex., where she thinks she can repeat as champion in the 100 and 200 butterfly.

Before the winter health problems, Minthorn earned the No. 7 ranking in the world in the 200 fly and ninth in the world in the 100 fly. She built up frequent flyer miles with stops in Finland and the Soviet Union with the national junior team, Guam and Tokyo with the Pan-Pacific team, and Australia and all over the continental U.S. with the national team.

Her best performance came at an invitational meet in the Soviet Union where she brought home three individual gold medals, a silver, a bronze and a gold medal in a relay.

Minthorn is quite familiar with the painful dedication it takes to be world class. "I don't know how much is talent and how much is training, but I've trained hard since I was little," she said.

Her winter training schedule for the Curl-Burke Swim Club meant pulling her 5-foot-10, 165-pound frame out of bed at 4:15 a.m. Before 7, she had already practiced for two hours. After school, she was back in the pool for two more hours.

Summer training has been a pleasant break -- she does not get up until 5:15. At 6, she begins three-hour practices. In the evening, she goes back for two more hours.

With all the time spent in the pool, Minthorn realized she needed a diversion. Two years ago, she found one, although it was not far from the water. She started coaching youngsters on the Darnestown team in the Montgomery County Swim League.

"I've seen her work with a child, give them tips and the child would be able to drop a lot of time off their races," said Darnestown Coach Sue McDonald.

In case the youngsters do not get the point vocally, Minthorn demonstrates by remaining active as a swimmer with the team's senior group. Behind Minthorn, Darnestown has won 28 consecutive meets dating to 1985. Saturday, she broke MCSL records in the 100 free, 100 individual medley and the 50 butterfly.

Surprisingly, where it seems like Minthorn spends as much time in the pool as out, she has no complaints about burn out.

"Once, I got to the point where I wasn't motivated because I got sick of putting myself through so much pain everyday," she said. "But then, I realized that I really liked swimming and I didn't want to change that. By now, it's my life. I can't ever imagine not swimming."