Junior swimmer heading to national meet

Category:  Sports
Wednesday, March 13th, 2019 at 5:45 PM

Breaking a school record is a significant achievement. As is earning All-PSAC honors. For Katelyn Kopacko of the Edinboro women’s swimming team, though, these honors bring her one step closer to achieving the greater goal of a top-16 national finish.

Kopacko, a junior nursing major and freestyle and breaststroke swimmer, nabbed an Edinboro school record in the 50-yard freestyle on the first day of the recent PSAC Championships, with a time of 23.24 seconds.

Last year, she missed her national goal by eight spots, but despite this setback, her own determination and support from others has kept her motivated to continue.

“You always have to keep looking forward, no matter what you do,” Kopacko said.

She is the first Edinboro swimmer to qualify for nationals since Staci Schrecengost in 2015, a former athlete who occasionally provides advice to the team along with fellow Edinboro alum Holly Stein.

Kopacko said that breaking the 23-second mark in the 50-yard event and perhaps a 100-yard freestyle record are some of her future aspirations. For now, she plans to focus on nationals. 

Her brother and sister also have swimming experience, which is what encouraged her to pursue swimming at 5 years old, and she is still inspired by them after 15 years of competition. 

Posting an NCAA-B time during her freshman year served as a good starting point for her, and she has worked toward her current goal since then. Swimmers who post NCAA-A times are guaranteed entries to the national meet, with the rest of the field filled out by B swimmers based on their times.

Her exercise routine on Tuesday and Thursday mornings involves lifting between 95 and 115 pounds, combined with 120 to 150-pound squats, and practice, which for Kopacko is every afternoon on Monday through Friday. Practice includes various sets that help to simulate racing conditions, which she visualizes regularly.

Support from teammates and coaches has also helped get her to where she is, along with being able to swim with them and see them do well as part of a mutually supportive environment.

Teammate Jenna Windheim described Kopacko as “very hardworking and headstrong, whether it be in the pool or in the classroom.” Kopacko is someone she looks up to, especially in their shared major classes.

Kopacko described her nationals meet preparation as “more intense work, but with a little more rest,” as it has been “a heck of a season” for her. She added that this season has been one of her favorites, especially due to the success of her 200-yard relay team.

Kopacko said she enjoys he teamwork that swimming competitively requires, and credits her sport with improving her time-management skills.

Practicing with members of the men’s team is also important to her, since everyone gets to have fun and stay focused at the same time. She keeps the words, “swim your race,” in mind based on what other teammates and Head Men’s and Women’s Swimming Coach Chris Rhodes have advised.

“I’m just really proud of her,” said Rhodes, whose improvement goals for Kopacko include faster flip-turns and somersaults. 

“I think that Kaitlyn is very dedicated to swimming and shows that by working very hard in practice. I believe that she will perform well at nationals and [in] upcoming years,” said teammate Gabrielle LaBovick.

Kopacko said her best memories are made at championship meets, because on the team atmosphere and the surge of energy present. She tries to be positive with everything, in order to keep her mind off nervousness, especially with the fear of failure and disappointing others. 

The NCAA Division II Swimming & Diving National Championships for both men’s and women’s teams will take place through Saturday in Indianapolis, Indiana. 

“It’s been a long time coming and I think I’m ready,” Kopacko said.

Amber Chisholm | edinboro.spectator@gmail.com

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