Norwin girls athlete of the year: Kathryn Painter
Kathryn Painter spent her sophomore season away from the Norwin swimming team, concentrating on competing in longer events for the Norwin Aqua Club.
Her return to the varsity team in 2013-14 made program history.
Painter won a pair of gold medals at the WPIAL Class AAA swimming championships in March, taking first place in the 500-yard freestyle and 200 individual medley and becoming Norwin's first WPIAL champion since Ryan Smrekar in 2009. She placed second in both events at the PIAA championships and also swam at states with the Norwin 400 freestyle relay.
During her run this season, Painter set meet records — and school records — in the 500 free and 200 IM at the Westmoreland County Coaches Association championships in February. She set new school records in both events later in the year.
For her achievements, Painter was named the Norwin Star's 2013-14 girls athlete of the year. Below is the transcript of an interview conducted May 28.
Q: Congratulations on the outstanding season. How did it feel to go through a year like that?
A: This season, it was really nice with all of my teammates supporting me. Everybody was working really hard. At the end of the season, I was so happy that I got to be the WPIAL champion in the 500 and the 200 IM and to go to states and get second. I was hoping for top three, and I was very happy with all of my accomplishments this year. Although my teammates were there supporting me at states, it was really them helping me that really got me the support to do so well the entire season.
Q: If you were to pick which accomplishment was most meaningful, which one would it be?
A: I think actually getting second place at states was the most meaningful. Of course, getting first would have been awesome, but getting second is almost better because you get to realize that all your hard work has paid off and you finally see that. You get to be up on the podium with everybody else that has a great work ethic just like you, and you're just so excited. I loved states, and it was exciting to see I came from getting fifth at states my freshman year to getting second my junior year.
Q: At states, you're competing against the best there is to offer in Pennsylvania. What's it like to compete at that level?
A: I love to swim against other people from different areas because you get to see different strengths from different girls. Instead of just swimming against who you're used to swimming against, you get a whole other group of swimmers who push you even more because you don't really know how they swim and what their best stroke is. You get to go out and race and just try to do your best.
Q: It had been a few years since Norwin had a WPIAL champ. What does it mean to bring it back?
A: I was so proud to bring back the WPIAL champion for both of my races. I'm happy that I got to continue to kind of bring back the status of it, and I'm happy that everybody on the team all got to go through WPIALs together. We also made it to states in our relay, so I was even happier then that we got to go to states with our relay. As Norwin, we got to represent at states with more swimmers there instead of just me going by myself.
Q: You took your sophomore year off from the varsity team at Norwin and concentrated on the aqua club. Was it a tough transition coming back or smooth sailing?
A: It was all smooth sailing. We worked hard all season. Going back was kind of an obvious decision. I was really ready for our team to do well as a whole, and I was ready for everybody to do great. I thought this year was the perfect year to come back.
Q: How close are you with your teammates?
A: I'm very close with all of my teammates because I've been swimming with some of them since I was like 5 years old. Of course you develop some amazing relationships, but it's just great to see all of them accomplish wonderful things. I love having all of them there to support me all the time. It makes it worthwhile.
Q: When did you first start swimming competitively?
A: I started on the aqua club when I was 5 years old, and I started swimming competitively when I was around 6 or 7.
Q: What's it like competing at such a young age?
A: My sister joined the aqua club before I did, and so it was like a family thing that we all started to swim. It was more about me being with my sister, and then eventually we started getting at a higher level. It was so exciting to start competing against girls from other areas and getting different abilities and trying to win the races as best as you could.
Q: How much time do you spend on swimming these days?
A: In the summer, I probably spend about four and a half hours in the pool, and I spend an hour or so outside of the pool training (on) dry land. It's a lot. In the winter, I do about two and a half hours because of course school takes time out of the other times I could be swimming.
Q: Do you travel a lot with the aqua club?
A: We travel to Pitt, of course, because that's close to us, but we also go to Ohio, and sometimes we head down to Virginia for a sectionals meet that about six of the swimmers on my team swim with me in. We travel closer around Pennsylvania.
Q: Are there any swimming events you prefer?
A: I like all of my events, except I think I'd prefer to swim the 400 IM. The 200 IM is probably one of my stronger events in high school, but I'm more of a distance swimmer. Whenever I get to swim the longer 200 IM, which is the 400 IM, it really shows how my endurance is up. I think that's one of my favorite races that I swim.
Q: Are you starting to look into potential colleges?
A: This summer, we're going to be looking at many different schools. I'm focusing more on staying east instead of going out west. I want to stay closer to my family.
Q: How much attention do you pay to USA Swimming events and the Olympics? Are you a big fan of some of those things?
A: I love to watch the Olympics. It's one of my favorite things. Not only swimming, but I like to watch all of the events. It's so exciting to watch somebody work so hard, and finally it paid off and they do great.
Q: Are there any swimmers you look up to or aspire to be?
A: I like Rebecca Soni (a six-time Olympic medalists, including three golds); she does breaststroke, and since I was little, I was always good at breaststroke. A lot of coaches told me I had her breaststroke, so I always wanted to be more like her in the water. And then of course I like Ryan Lochte (a nine-time Olympic medalist, including five golds) because he's like the underdog compared to Michael Phelps, and I always cheer for the underdog to win.
Q: If you could pick a world-class swimmer to compete against, who would it be?
A: I would be honored to swim against any of the Olympians because I think all of them would be amazing to compete against. I hope I can someday.
Q: Do you have an ultimate goal for swimming?
A: My ultimate goal would probably be to go to the Olympics, but of course you have to go to the Olympic Trials. I think that's my goal right now, to make the Olympic Trial cut to go to the Olympics.
Q: What about this season? What are your goals for your senior year?
A: My goal for next year is to get first at states since I got second this year. But I think overall, my goal is for my relay to get higher placements at states. I hope we get even more relays to states instead of just my one relay.