Greatness is a word that is a frequently used word in the world of athletics. It embodies the leadership, determination, talent and heart of an athlete. At UCSB, senior swimmer and captain Katy Freeman has gone above and beyond. Starting off as an eager freshman to becoming one of the 26 swimmers competing at the 2009 World University Games in Belgrade, Serbia, Freeman shows what true greatness can achieve.
“I’m so excited, and it was really unexpected,” Freeman said. “[Head Coach Gregg Wilson] mentioned that my performance at the U.S. Open would grant me this title. I didn’t expect to do so well since I just finished competing at the Olympic Trials, but I swam faster at the U.S. Open and kept having good meets.”
Freeman, a linguistics major, started off her collegiate career completely out of the spotlight. She performed well, but swam under the radar. It was not until last year when she dominated in the 200-meter breaststroke at the 2007-08 Big West Championships with her time of 2:10:89, beating teammate freshman Sara Nicponski. Her time was a UCSB new record and earned her a rightful spot at the NCAA Championships. At the NCAA, Freeman came in 11th to earn her an All-American Honorable mention for being seeded in the top 16 for the 200 breaststroke. Through it all, Freeman kept her poise and thanks her teammates for keeping her momentum alive.
“This is my fourth year and it gets harder every year, so we as a team work together and motivate each other to do well,” Freeman said. “We did so well at Big West, and it truly was a team effort, and it was great to go to the NCAA together as a team. Last year we took two swimmers to the NCAA, and this year we took 13. It was a great accomplishment, and I wouldn’t be where I am at without the support of my teammates.”
If you believe the NCAA was her toughest challenge, try qualifying for the U.S. Olympic trials, which were held in Omaha, Nebraska. For Freeman, she knew it would be tough, but her determination and Gaucho pride helped her qualify for 16th in the pre-eliminations. For the final consideration, Freeman went from 16th to 10th, just missing her chance to advance by two as the trials only take the top eight in the nation. However, her remarkable jump from 16th to 10th landed her in the U.S. Open where she took third in the 200-meter breaststroke with her time of 2:29:68 and fifth in the 100-meter breaststroke with her time of 1:09:55.
“She is a perfect example of what a determined woman can do, and I am so proud of her,” Coach Wilson said. “She was voted most inspirational and the 2008-09 team captain and she is such a great asset to this team. We are extremely fortunate that she is on our side, because she has a big heart and she always pushes herself to be great and challenges herself beyond all measures. Here is a woman who went from being under the radar to the top of the world.”
With Freeman, there is a sense of humility and team spirit. Wilson agrees that Freeman is always there to give her teammates constant love and support. In addition to being a top athlete, she was also awarded with the Gold Ring and Golden Eagle award for having the highest GPA from the female junior and senior class on the team. According to Wilson, she is exactly the type of athlete he looks for.
“I couldn’t be more proud because I’ve seen her grow throughout this program,” Wilson said. “She is crème de la crème because she works so hard and trains like no other. She is highly competitive, and she showed me what she could do over the summer. All of her hard work has paid off.”
When asked what her favorite memory was throughout her collegiate experience, she did not pick from many of her own accomplishments or her own victories, but rather, she picked the victory of her fellow teammate.
“When junior Anne Marie May got third at the NCAA, it was the best experience of my life,” Freeman said. “It wasn’t even my own, but I was so loud and cheered her on with everyone else on the team, and we were so happy that she did so well. We all worked so hard, and it was amazing to see her on the podium and see her smile and be happy. It was the most amazing thing I have ever witnessed; I was so honored to have been a part of it.”
As Shakespeare mentioned, some of us have greatness thrust upon us, and if that is true, one can only see that Katy Freeman is layered from top to bottom with greatness. It is not something you can win or bribe someone to achieve. You are born with it.