After taking two years off from high school swimming to concentrate on club swimming, grades and college recruitment, Severna Park senior Katie Parker could not be happier to be back on the Falcons' team headed for Saturday's high school state finals.
She has a 3.4 GPA and will swim at James Madison next year, but this winter, she has helped Severna Park to Anne Arundel County and Class 4A-3A East region championships.
In the county finals, she set a meet record in the 100-yard breast stroke, won the 200 individual medley and helped two relay teams to victory. At Monday's regionals, she set meet records in both individual events and anchored the winning 200 freestyle relay.
Swimming with the Severna Park YMCA (SPY) club team, Parker has been a regular at Y nationals and has qualified for U.S. junior and senior nationals.
How demanding is it to juggle club and high school swimming?
It's pretty crazy. I took two years off from my high school team, sophomore and junior years, because I could not do it. I knew for a fact that I could not handle both my high school team and my club team and keep my grades up, and get sleep, and maintain a tiny bit of a social life, so I knew something had to give.
Did you miss it?
I missed it terribly. I had a ton of friends who kept swimming for high school, and I'm pretty good friends with a couple of kids who are on the Broadneck team, which is our rival school, and I went and I watched the state championship meet that year and actually came home and cried because I didn't do high school swimming. I really wanted to do it again junior year, but everybody tells you junior year is absolutely terrible just because that's when everybody starts looking at grades and college coaches start recruiting.
Why did you decide to come back this season?
At Severna Park, they offer early release, so if you have a job or an internship or you take jump-start classes at the community college, you can choose to get out of school early every day. I only take two periods a day and even though I also work at a little barbecue shack, I knew I had extra time on my hands. I told myself and I told my high school coach and I told my parents my junior year that if I was committed to college before Thanksgiving break of my senior year, I would definitely swim for the high school. That happened to be the case, so I was excited to swim.
What do you enjoy about high school swimming?
I really like the sense of team that we get with high school swimming. There's definitely a sense of team at SPY, but for high school swimming, you're not always swimming for a best time or a qualifying time, you're swimming to get points for your team and I think that really builds the team aspect. You're not swimming for yourself, you're swimming for others. A lot of people don't see swimming as a team sport, which I think with the high school, it definitely is.
As a senior, do you play more of leadership role on your high school team this year, or is that a tricky balance since you left and came back?
Bennett Bean and Meghan Bohny were the only two who were on the team with me my freshman year, but it's nice to come back as a senior because I do like to lead some of the younger kids. I do like to be that older kid that they look up to like I looked up to the seniors when I was a freshman. I try to get everybody pumped up and I try to get everybody excited and if somebody has a race that they're not too happy with I try to talk to them and let them know it's not the end of the world.
How does your training regimen work now that you're doing swimming for club and high school teams?
With my SPY club team, I have eight practices a week in the pool and two practices that are not in the pool that are in the weight room, lifting and doing calisthenics with our coach. For the high school team, I swim two water practices a week and there are also dry-land practices twice a week, but if we swim club, we are exempt from the dry-land practices because they run during our club practices.
What's the key to getting faster at this point in your career?
I would say versatility although, actually, I guess there are a couple factors. You definitely can't just train the same thing over, and over, and over again and expect different results. That's absolutely crazy. You also have to increase intensity, I think and sometimes it's not too good to dwell on one thing for a really long time, because if you dwell on one goal and you can't seem to reach it, it's like a road block. If you start focusing on something else, but you continue to work on all the areas that you want to work on, then maybe you'll come back to that goal and find that it's easier to accomplish.
What is your goal for states?
I really hope that our team places well compared to how we did the last two years. The team is at a very strong point right now, and I think our relays could do really well. Individually, I would like to come back and win the 100 breast stroke and 200 IM that I won as a freshman.
What's your ultimate goal in swimming?
It's changed a lot in the past two years. If you had asked me that two years ago, I would have told you that I would have wanted to go to NCAAs and score really high or even make an Olympic trial cut, which still would be wonderful, but at this point I just want to keep having fun with the sport and keep improving and be the best teammate I can be, to whatever team I'm swimming for, whether it be SPY or the high school team or next fall at JMU.
What do you think about on all those training laps day after day?
Sometimes, I think about literally everything, stuff that's happened to me that day or stuff that I have to get done tomorrow which I try not to think about a lot. When I'm swimming I try to think about what I'm doing while I'm swimming, so if I think while I'm at practice, I don't have to think about my swimming while I'm at a meet.
What do you do on snow days?
If practice hasn't been canceled, then I'll go to practice, but on the weird chance [club] practice has been canceled, I help shovel and I'll come inside and be lazy all day because I can and that's awesome. It's not that often that I get to do that.
What's your favorite Winter Olympics event to watch?
I really like pairs figure skating, because I can't figure skate by myself. I can't even ice skate, so the fact that they're spinning around and throwing and catching each other is beyond my belief. I also really like the half pipe.
What's something people don't know about you?
I'm pretty much an open book, but I don't know if a lot of people know that I wish there were more hours in a day so I could listen to more music. I basically try to listen to music whenever I'm not in the pool and I'm not in the classroom. I like everything, anything from country to alternative. I'll listen to a little bit of rap. I'm pretty diverse. I went to Firefly [Music Festival] last year, and I wish I could have seen everybody play.
What role has swimming played in making you the person you are today?
It definitely taught me that you have to have self discipline, but in the same respect you have to know how to have fun. If you didn't have self discipline, there's no way you could swim on this level, but you also couldn't swim on this level if you didn't have fun with it, so I guess swimming has taught me balance in that aspect, but also the idea of balancing a sport and school and being a teenager.