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January 27, 2005

Danville's lone senior swimmer is a leader, too

From: Danville Advocate, KY - Jan 27, 2005

Sports Writer

Katherine Becker is not the captain of the Danville swim team simply because she is the only senior.

She is the only senior, but she is many other things as well.

Her teammates and her coach say she is a tireless worker in the water, a friend and motivator, a problem-solver and confidant and a positive influence for younger swimmers.

And she's a pretty good swimmer, too.

"She has all the qualities of a captain," teammate Elizabeth Reynolds said.

Becker is actually a captain on two teams - Danville and her club team at the Wilderness Trace Family YMCA - and she takes her leadership role seriously.

"I just feel like I have to be there at each practice and make sure everyone on the team knows they have my support," she said.

By now, they know.

"She's a very good person to train with," said Reynolds, who has done so for the last eight years and said Becker's approach to swimming encouraged her and her brother to give the sport a try. "She's always got a positive attitude, and she fusses at you if you've got a negative attitude."

"She's a real leader," Danville coach Marc Williams said.

Becker is in her ninth year on the Danville team and her 12th year of competitive swimming, and she said the relationships that have developed through those years have made all those miles in the water worthwhile.

"You spend at least three hours a day with these people working hard. You form a bond, and that's what keeps you going," she said.

Becker turned her last competitive laps Wednesday at the Kentucky School for the Deaf pool when Danville and Boyle County swam their final home meet of the season.

She admitted to conflicting emotions at her last meet at the pool that has been her home away from home for almost as long as she can remember.

"It's sad, but at the same time it's exciting," she said. "I've really loved high school, and I've loved swimming at this pool, but I'm ready to move on and meet new people and have new experiences."

Becker was supported not only by her teammates and other friends from Danville, but by new friends from the Centre College team she'll be part of next season. Former Danville teammate Deming Williams and 10 or so other Centre swimmers came to Wednesday's meet bearing roses for their future teammate.

"I already feel like I'm part of their team, and I feel like I already have a lot of new friends, and that'll make college a lot better," she said.

Becker, who hopes to go to law school after four years at Centre, also plays tennis and helps teach a Sunday school class at her church and pours the same effort into that as she does in swimming.

"She works hard at everything she does," longtime friend and teammate Kasey Toy said. "She can't not give her best effort."

Becker went out Wednesday with a win the 100-yard freestyle, beating friend and YMCA teammate Sarah LeMay of Boyle by .08 seconds.

"When we're training together we're pretty much competing anyway," she said. "She normally beats me. She's a pretty good swimmer."

Becker bounced back from a difficult week in which she saw her school record fall in the 100 freestyle, then fell ill and missed two days of practice and school.

Marc Williams said he thinks the onset of that illness and the pressures of her senior year were getting to her, and he suggested she take a step back.

"I just said, 'You just need to be a kid again,'" Williams said. "She was able to relax and let all those burdens roll off her. She's really come back this week."

While Becker was struggling, Toy broke her freestyle record by about half a second in a leg of the 400 freestyle relay.

"I'm really happy she got the record," Becker said.

Toy wasn't so happy, however.

"I got it last week, and I felt awful," Toy said. "It was a tough situation. Records don't necessarily say how good a swimmer is, but I wish it didn't have to be that way.

"I hope in the region she can have a chance to go faster and get it back, because I'll still have a chance next year."

Becker swam in two relays at last year's state meet, but she has never qualified for state in an individual event. She has an outside shot to do so at next week's regional, but she said that isn't her first priority.

"It's not my goal in swimming," she said. "My goal is just to swim faster and enjoy it.

"Even if I haven't gotten any faster, no one's going to remember that. But I'm going to remember all the people I've met and everything people have done for me. I've met my best friends at the swimming pool. Those are the relationships I've kept."

Copyright The Advocate-Messenger 2005