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From Shamu to the Finish Line

kwaters
Explorer C

During my FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) 1st class medical several months back, my doctor asked if I was participating in the Jacksonville Senior Games to be held the following week. As a runner, he felt I certainly would be competitive. Little did he know, that I had always wondered how I would do swimming, an activity I thoroughly enjoyed, and one I often did on my overnights as I flew throughout the SWA system.

On a lark, I entered the freestyle events, the 50-, 100-, 200-, and 500-yard, having to ask the official how many times across the pool each distance was. To my surprise--and that of the coaches and numerous teams present--I won two silver and two gold medals! (Not to mention having a ton of fun!) These results made me eligible for the Florida State Games in Fort Meyers where I received two silver medals. ( I could only make two races as I had to fly my trip.) Amazingly, I had now qualified for the 2009 National Senior Games!

Fast forward to August in California, where I arrived with my 79-year old Mom to see her "little girl" swim competitively for the first time ever. With over 10,000 athletes participating in 25 sports, the only thing that outdid the Opening Ceremony was the silver hair that gave a special sparkle to an atmosphere laced with energy.

As part of the youngest age group (50 - 54), I could only look to the older ones, well into their 90's with awe and inspiration. Yet, as I passed the guys basketball teams in my age group, I felt like I was back in high school. The reality was, most of the swimmers were on Master's Teams or the coach of one themselves. However, even with no coaching or team behind me, I had something a bit more special lifting me higher. Initiated by the LUVing hearts at the G.O. (including Colleen), I stood out in my cap, TJ LUV towel, and gear bag! The ultimate was stepping up onto the starting blocks, looking high up into the stands, and seeing my mom's arms waving madly and her new found friends chanting my name!

Racing against women that held the National titles, I was quite pleased with my results. I bested my previous times in the 50-, 100-, and 500-, and then, in the 200-yard freestyle; I "ribboned" in sixth place! What a sweet way to finish!

This unbelievable experience left me realizing how incredibly lucky I was to reach the Nationals in only my third swim meet. I also learned that, yes, I do know how to swim, but now...it's time to learn how to race! And just like on the first day at SWA, in the very first airplane I flew: Shamu....it's SHOWTIME!

3 Comments
colleen_barrett
Explorer C
Katie: Great posting from a great lady and fantastic photo of a fantastic lady--LUV you and miss you "big time," my Friend :)! xoxo, Colleen
carroll3
New Arrival
You go girl, you should write a childrens book. To compete at that level in a sport you have never competed in is crazy FUN and inspiring. We are proud of you.
lucky1
Explorer C
What an inspiration! If a scrawny, malnourished, cranky, toothless, humorless, barely ambulatory, near-blind old fossil (not to mention being a single mom of two teenagers) like Katie can compete so successfully,training in her "free time," it removes ALL the excuses for the rest of us to get and stay in shape. The fact that she bluffed her way into a younger age group (50-54) when we all know her to be 73, is yet another feather in her colorful cap. Any truth to the rumor that Mark Spitz has been trying to ask her out???