By Adam Love
WSU Sports Information
Feb. 19, 2001
For many athletes on the WSU swim team, swimming has been a lifelong love, and being able to swim at the collegiate level, the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. For Cougar freshman Katie Byrnes, however, this is not quite the case.
Byrnes did not even begin to participate in organized swimming until her freshman year at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. She says she first got into the sport because her older sister Julie swam.
'My sister was always doing a lot, and I wanted to be like her,' Byrnes said with a smile. 'Once I started swimming, I really enjoyed it.'
Byrnes never even thought about swimming at the collegiate level until her senior year of high school.
'All my friends have been swimming since they were like eight years old,' Byrnes said.
Byrnes says that making her first Junior Nationals cut during her senior year, first made her realize she had the potential to swim after high school.
'When I first started swimming, even my mom said `I never thought it would take you this far',' Byrnes said. 'Around my senior year, I made my first Junior National cut, and just kept improving a lot.'
Despite Byrnes' lack of experience, Cougar head coach Rocco Aceto saw something special that made him want to recruit her to WSU.
'Katie has trained with my Olympic coaching friend Duffy Dillion in Fort Lauderdale,' Aceto said. 'He told me she would get better in college, and after watching her swim I agreed that several colleges overlooked her talent level.'
Perhaps this lack of experience could seem like a disadvantage to some swimmers, but Byrnes feels otherwise.
'I've never felt like I'm burned out,' Byrnes said. 'I think it might be more of an advantage.'
| Byrnes holds positions on three
school top 10 lists heading
into the Pac-10 Championships
It looks as though Byrnes is right, because she has made an immediate impact on the Cougar swim team, already establishing times on the team's hallowed top 10 lists in three events: 200 backstroke, 100 backstroke, and 400 individual medley.
'Last year at this time, I wasn't anywhere near the times I'm having this year,' Byrnes said.
She has set her sights high for this season. Byrnes says as well as she is doing right now, she would really like to qualify for the NCAA Championships in February.
As a team, Byrnes feels that depth is the key to the team's success this season.
'Right now, we're doing awesome, everyone is kicking butt,' Byrnes said cheerfully.
Heading into the Pac-10 Championships, the team has kicked their way to a 9-3 dual meet record, including a huge win of intrastate rival Washington.
Byrnes definitely brings both talent and personality to the Cougar swim team.
'Katie is competitive and challenges not only herself but the entire team as well,' Aceto said. 'She is always smiling, and has a bubbly outlook on life. But in the pool, Katie will train at the highest level on the most consistent basis.'
Being from Florida, Byrnes was not initially looking to go to school so far away from home.
'I never thought I'd end up all the way out here,' Byrnes said. 'I just really liked the other swimmers on the team, and what Rocco's program had to offer. That's how I ended up here.'
Byrnes ventured a long way from home, coming from Fort Lauderdale to Pullman, but she is not the only member of her family to leave Florida for the Northwest. Her cousin John Anderson is a place kicker on the football team at intrastate rival Washington.
'When he first decided to come to Washington we were like, `Whoa John, what are you doing?'' Byrnes said with a grin.
When at home back in Fort Lauderdale, Byrnes says she does like to take advantage of the favorable climate.
'I like to go to the beach and surf, normal Florida stuff,' Byrnes said. 'But I like the snow too. It's nice to have a change of scenery.'
In her first year of college, Byrnes has yet to decide on her future academic plans.
'There's so much stuff to do out there, I really don't know right now what I want to do for the rest of my life yet,' Byrnes said.
In the pool, however, she does have some possible aspirations after college.
'It would be nice to go to the Olympics,' Byrnes said amiably. 'That's every swimmer's dream.'
No matter how far Katie Byrnes goes with her swimming career, she will no doubt continue to inspire others and turn heads in the pool with the Cougar swim team.