Six times a week, Kari Powell is in deep water. The Trinity swimmer, along with her teammates, puts in nearly two hours of practice daily, doing endurance, speed work and relay practice to shave milliseconds off times in order to win big races.
And win big races is what the junior swimmer has done the past two years at the District 3 and PIAA state championships.
Powell defended her 100-yard breaststroke state title in the PIAA Class 2A championships at Bucknell University on March 18 by swimming her personal best, 1:02.65, to repeat as state champion, beating her competitors in adjacent lanes by more than a second.
“I knew I had to go out fast in the first 50,” Powell said in an interview at Trinity. “I always try to do that and then just hold on in the back 50.” She also won the District 3 championship in the 100-breaststroke and medaled in the 200-yard medley relays.
While her remarkable success at the state level has been individual, she speaks highly of her teammates and enjoys the team bonds they have forged over the past three years, which includes swimming as a team with Camp Hill High School swimmers, since both schools co-op the sport. “What I like is that we know how to have fun, and lots of fun, but we also all work hard, and we have the same goal to be the best that we can be. That’s really cool.”
Eating well, hitting the weight room and of course putting in practice time is important for all high school sports, but it is arguably most important in swimming. Powell’s times at this year’s District 3 meet were disappointing, even though she won several gold medals at that meet in early March. There is no question that she has a bulls-eye on her back, given her multiple years of success, and that can lead to pressure and the expectations game. To win when you are expected just might be the most difficult aspect of having underclassmen success.
“There is no question, I feel pressure,” she said candidly. “But I do tell myself that I am doing this for fun, and yes winning is fun, but I must relax to do well…. With that attitude, I do not see myself ever burning out being a swimmer.”
She also added that she has been swimming competitively since she was five years old, as she has followed the path blazed by her brother and sister in the sport. In addition, she plays soccer for Trinity, which helps her with conditioning, and she enjoys the team atmosphere she gains in that longtime successful ’Rocks program.
Before this year’s state meet, Powell rested more and gave her body more time to recover after a long season. That strategy clearly paid off as she swam her personal best at the year’s ultimate final competition and had the gold medal placed around her neck once again.
The needed rest and her mature mindset about competing is why Powell has won multiple big races these past years in the pool’s deep water.
(Photo by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)
By Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness