Torri Huske, Olympic hopeful, begins to stand out at her high school swim meets only after the starting buzzer sounds. Until that point, the 17-year-old junior from Yorktown High is fairly inconspicuous. She’s always had a slight, unimposing frame. Huske had to wear a wet suit to practices when she was younger because she would get so cold, and her coaches operated under “Torri rules,” allowing her to warm up separately right before her races so she didn’t waste energy shivering on deck.

“If she turned sideways and bent over, you thought it was 9:30 because she looked like clock hands,” said Torri’s father, Jim Huske. “She was just that thin.”

Huske, 5-foot-8 and still slim, is considered small by elite standards, but that has not kept her from breaking records that are continually increasing in stature. On Dec. 6 she finished first in the 100-meter butterfly at the U.S. Open with a time of 57.48 seconds, beating Olympic gold medalist Kelsi Dahlia and shaving time off the meet record set in 2017 by French Olympian Marie Wattel (57.53). The event was a promising milestone for Huske as she looks ahead to facing Dahlia and other members of Team USA at the 2020 U.S. Olympic trials in June.

Huske has qualified for six events at the Olympic trials: the 50-, 100- and 200-meter freestyle; the 100- and 200-meter butterfly; and the 200-meter individual medley. She will attempt to add a qualifying time in the 400-meter individual medley this season, and then she will set her sights on securing a bid to the Summer Games in Tokyo.

“Everyone who I’ve talked to says the [Olympic trials] are really exciting and it just feels really big,” Huske said. “Like, you can just feel that it’s a big, important meet. I’m excited, but I’m also a little bit nervous because I’ve never been before.”

Huske has already defeated collegiate and pro swimmers on the national and international circuits, and she will have to do so again to make it past the preliminary and semifinal rounds at trials. Then, she will need to finish in either first or second place in the finals to represent Team USA at the Olympic Games. Her best chance to qualify for Tokyo is in the 100-meter butterfly.

Huske’s coaches think it is possible given how she has approached and achieved her past endeavors. Her accolades include setting the national high school record for the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 51.29 seconds on the short course and setting Virginia’s 50-yard freestyle record at 21.95 seconds. She is a multi-time National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association (NISCA) all-American award winner and two-time All-Met Swimmer of the Year.

“She’s doing all the little things,” Yorktown Coach Torey Ortmayer said. “We’ve never seen her plateau. She’s just continued to get better and better over the past three or four years. I think anything is really possible down the road. Of course, 2020 is the goal.”

To prepare for trials, Huske has started working in more long-course training with her Arlington Aquatic Club team and Coach Evan Stiles. Ortmayer has also helped her develop a strength program that includes core work, light weightlifting and box jumping.

“I feel like I really need [the strength training] because a lot of the girls I’m racing are a lot stronger than me,” Huske said. “So I feel like that’s something I need to work on. It helps with pushing off on my turns.”

Huske has squeezed the extra half hour of training into an already jam-packed schedule that includes morning and after-school practices, international travel and four advanced placement courses. She is a straight-A student who has received multiple scholarship offers from elite academic and athletic programs, including Stanford, Duke, Virginia and Navy.

Torri Huske finished her opening leg of the 400-yard freestyle relay for Yorktown in 50.1 seconds on Dec. 20. (The Washington Post)

Her mother, Ying, said she has asked her daughter to lighten her course load, but Huske has refused. The same motivation to excel in her athletic pursuits carries over to her academic ones.

“She’s a hard-working girl,” Ying Huske said. “Sometimes I have to say: ‘Hey Tori, relax! You don’t have to be so serious.’ ”

This determination has helped propel Huske to the international stage as a teenager. Her father said she was never a “prodigy.” Instead, Huske has relied on a quiet focus, intensive training regimen and clean diet to steadily improve. She has continued to drop time as she has grown.

“Technically, she’s had great coaches, and that’s the difference,” Jim Huske said. “So when she finally grew, she was just ungodly fast.”