Just add water

Caroline McConnico, Editor-in-Chief

  It’s the day of the big RJ Reynolds swim meet, and senior Catherine Kim is listening to her “meet playlist.” While the music plays, she’s visualizing her strategy for her races today, carefully crafting each one as she chugs another coffee. She’ll probably take a nap after the next track, one that is timed to utter perfection. 

    Later, she’ll take the trek to the Kernersville YMCA, a place she’ll soon fill with her cheers for her fellow swimmers before diving into the water herself. This is who Kim is; undeterred, undeniable, and undefeated. 

    “Catherine is an incredibly hard worker and totally selfless when it comes to our team,” RJR swim coach Caroline Bronson said. “She will do what it takes no matter what. She never wants to let anyone down, but she also has this magical power of making others not want to let her down.”

    At the Central Piedmont Conference (CPC) championship meet on Friday, January 20th, Kim’s cheers were audible from the parking lot. In between heats, you could find her huddled close to Bronson, strategizing her next time underwater. As soon as Kim finished a heat and pulled herself out of the pool, her teammates scrambled to congratulate her, giving her encouragement and embracing her in a tight hug. 

    “Swimming at RJR has helped me make great friends and build a community at school,” Kim said. “It’s been so much fun, and I know I can always talk to my coaches and teammates about anything. Even when I’m tired, I can find a way to swim fast for the team, and I love cheering with my teammates.”

    Kim joined her first swim team at the age of five. Here, she met her first and favorite coach, CJ, who springboarded her into her swimming career. 

    “[CJ] unfortunately passed away, but that only inspired me to keep going,” Kim said. “I still think about how much he did for me, and I don’t think I’d be the person or swimmer I am today without him.”

    Kim’s dedication to the sport has kept her going through burnouts and breaks. Whether she’s swimming for RJR or Enfinity Aquatic Club (EAC), or both at the same time, Kim can’t seem to stay on land. Her love for her teams has not gone unnoticed by her teammates, friends, and coaches.

    “Catherine is one of the most dedicated athletes and swimmers I have met,” senior swimmer Tatum Mellor said. “She always amazes me with her talent and dedication to improving. She carried our team through so many meets and has always been someone we could rely on. Watching her swim has always been a pleasure.”

    Mellor isn’t the only one with positive things to say about Kim. Senior swimmer Vivien Hines expressed how Kim has given her all to support RJR swim.

    “Driven is the best word that encompasses Catherine both in and out of the water,” Hines said. “She puts her all into every endeavor and brings energy to meets and positivity to everyone while they race.”

    To say Kim is competitive may be an understatement; she tied as CPC Swimmer of the Year with senior Caroline Echols and freshman Ava Kiser. 

    “I hate losing, and I’ll always try to do my best,” Kim said. “I’ve definitely gotten better about focusing on the things I can control instead of other people, but I still enjoy racing to win.”

    One of Kim’s closest swimming companions is former RJR student Jane Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald, who now swims at the University of Miami, expressed her appreciation for Kim and her friendship.

Kim wins first place in the 200 IM, racing in lane 4. (Photo provided by Caroline McConnico. )

    “Catherine was like a sister to me at RJR swim, and we experienced a lot of trials and tribulations together, but we made the best out of any difficult situations we encountered,” Fitzgerald said. “Sometimes I feel that Catherine unfairly doubts her own abilities, but she always shows up for herself and her team when we need it. She’s also an amazing and supportive teammate and friend I’ve been so grateful to have in my life.”

    Although unsure if she will continue to swim competitively after high school, Kim has made it clear that a part of her will always belong in the pool. When the water calls, Kim will always answer. 

    “I definitely want to keep swimming for as long as I can,” Kim said. “Whether I swim in college or just do club, I can’t imagine my life without it.”

    However focused and driven Kim is, Fitzgerald believes some things must be left to work out on their own. Her advice for Kim, let college be something out of her control.

    “College and life after high school is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced, living away from your family with so much independence and responsibility, but the most important thing is to not put too much pressure on yourself to have it look like you envisioned because sometimes the best things for you are the completely unexpected,” Fitzgerald said.

Kim celebrates her victory post-swim! (Photo provided by Caroline McConnico.)

     Kim won’t be forgotten by RJR swim and all of the lives she has affected in and out of the pool. Whatever Kim decides to do will be laced with the same gratitude and selflessness she brings to every aspect of her life. With this mentality, everything’s sure to go swimmingly.