The whole natatorium falls silent as the official blows the whistle, signaling the swimmers to get into position. Moments later, the starting beep pierces the air, and the swimmers dive into the water. Among these swimmers is 6A and now a 5A state champion for the 500 yard freestyle, Kaitlynn Sims.
Thirteen years ago, Sims began her swimming career with summer league when she was five years old. When she was eight years old, Sims began swimming on the Magnolia Aquatic Club and has been swimming year-round ever since.
“My parents forced me to start swimming because I was out of shape,” Sims said. “They wanted me to get exercise. And then I started to love it.”
Since she started swimming, Sims has achieved multiple accomplishments, including swimming not one, but two Olympic trial cuts. In 2016, Sims participated in the Olympic trials in the 400 and 800 yard freestyle. She was also the Junior National Champion in the 500 and 1650 yard freestyle in 2017 and 2018. Sims is currently a Swimming National Junior Team member, and she represented the USA in the Youth Olympic Games in Argentina, where she placed fifth in the 400 yard freestyle.
“My accomplishments in swimming keep me working hard because I always look forward to the next step,” Sims said. “I appreciate how fortunate I am to have such a great support system and so many amazing opportunities.”
Sims said her lowest point in swimming was during her freshmen year, when she was two tenths from her Olympic trial cut. At the time, Sims was suffering from back injuries, and she also caught a case of mono, which kept her out of the water for two months. Sims even said that she, ”didn’t think she was going to pull it off.” However, Sims ended up swimming her first Olympic trial cut two weeks before the deadline and was able to compete at the trials.
“This was definitely a moment in my swimming career I had to push through,” Sims said. “I got through it because I have a really good support system around me, encouraging me to stay relaxed and stay with the sport.”
Sims said swimming is a sport that requires lots of time, effort, and hard work, but knowing about the opportunities out there keeps her working. When asked about Sims’s work ethic, teammate Kaitlyn Weightman said that Sims “works hard and it pays off.”
“Sims is probably one of the hardest working swimmers I’ve ever coached,” head swim coach Dale Villemez said. “She’s always focused on the job at hand and doesn’t let any distractions get in the way.”
In addition to swimming, Sims is a member of Student Council. She has been in Student Council for three years and will continue to participate in it for the rest of her senior year. Sims is also the class officer for class of 2019 and has helped with multiple service projects.
“A really special part of my day is when we have our class officer meeting period because I get to talk to other leaders of our school and do different service projects,” Sims said. “It’s my second biggest hobby.”
Sims said that Student Council is a great alternative to swimming, and she’s grateful to participate in both activities. Student Council teacher Laurie Zuehke said that juggling both swimming and Student Council is a lot, but Sims handles it very well.
“Kaitlynn is beyond awesome,” Zuehke said. “I’ve had her in Student Council for three years now. I couldn’t ask for a better class officer who represents MHS in such a positive way. She can juggle a lot.”
After high school, Sims plans on attending the University of Michigan, where she will continue swimming, starting the summer of 2019. She doesn’t know what she wants to major in yet, but Sims said she will “figure it out.”
“I just take everything day by day,” Sims said. “My goals are just to improve what I need to work and get better on. I don’t really look at times, I just let them fall as they are and I work on myself.”