Swimming: Last Lap?

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April 1, 2010

11:25 PM

Katie Radloff has more awards and honors than most swimmers dream about.

The senior has 93 career wins, more than any other swimmer in William and Mary history. She won the 50, 100 and 200-meter freestyle events at this year’s CAA championships for the third year in a row. Radloff is the only swimmer in the College’s history to go to the NCAA championships four years in a row and swim at the Olympic trials.

This season alone, Radloff was named CAA Swimmer of the Week three times and made the CAA Silver Anniversary team, an honor awarded to the 25 best female swimmers in the conference’s history.

You’d think that with graduation around the corner and her collegiate career now over, Radloff would feel a little bit nostalgic for her years in the pool.

You’d be wrong.

“I’m not really that sad,” Radloff said. “My coach was a little concerned at my last race at the NCAA. He was like, ‘You don’t seem too upset about this.’ Actually, I am pretty relieved.”

For Radloff, swimmming has often been a full-time job which, combined with her kinesiology and health sciences major and psychology minor, leaves her little time for other activities.

“I just swim, and it definitely takes up pretty much all my time,” Radloff said. “It’s pretty much all I do. I have definitely wanted to try to join certain things. I did the beginning stages of the [Health Outreach Peer Educators] program we have here, but I realized I wouldn’t have time so I had to drop out.”

Such is the life of an accidental superstar. Radloff never set out to be a record-breaking swimmer for the College — or even a swimmer at all.

More interested in ballet than swimming as a kid, Radloff only gave the sport a try when a friend convinced her to join a local swim club at age nine. She hated the experience; she was terrified of putting her head under the water and only continued to go to practice because her friends were there.

“When I look back at all of my swimming from the beginning through high school, I pretty much only did it because my big group of friends were all swimmers,” Radloff said. “I didn’t put too much emphasis into trying to perform really well, and I just tried to have fun with it.”

Although Radloff eventually quit ballet and started swimming year-round at age 12, her relationship with the water remained casual. Her laid-back attitude caused a dilemma when college recruiters came calling during her junior year of high school.

“I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to swim in college, and the summer before my senior year my parents were really pushing me to look at schools. I was really reluctant,” Radloff said. “They actually made me come [to the College] to talk to the coach here. I wasn’t fast enough at the time, so I was kind of embarrassed … I specifically remember telling my parents I didn’t want to come here.”

But during her senior season, Radloff began to make a name for herself with a number of awards and accolades.

She was a high school All-American in both the 50 and 100-meter freestyle as well as the 200-free and 200-medley relays. She still holds the Virginia state record in the 200-meter freestyle and, as a senior, Radloff captained her team to the Virginia State AAA championship.

Despite her casual attitude, her times just kept improving.

“I think I just put a lot more focus on training than before because, like I said, I really only swam just to be with the people I was with,” Radloff said. “I never really swam, training really hard in practice. I think I was more of a nuisance to my coach.”

Once forced to pursue a spot on the College’s team as a junior, Radloff now found herself being pursued by the Tribe. And after a storied four-year career, Radloff leaves the College as the most decorated female swimmer in school history.

“I think [swimming in college] was a good decision,” Radloff said. “I would regret way more not having swam than having swam.”

Now, Radloff will get to experience life out of the water. After graduation, she wants to take a year off to work in the health services market before pursuing a master’s degree in public health.

Inspired by her art history classes, she also hopes to study abroad in Italy, an opportunity she never found time for during her four years of intense training.

“I took one art history class that focuses mostly on the architecture of Rome, so I have always wanted to go there and study,” Radloff said.

As for swimming, that’s a little less clear.

“I am taking a big break,” Radloff said. “I am not going to say completely ‘no’ to more swimming. I might go back and join a club team maybe if I feel like trying out again for the Olympic Trials next time around. Just for fun. We’ll see, but for now, no swimming.”

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