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Senior Kate and freshman Libby Walker can’t remember a time when they weren’t splashing around in a swimming pool. During the summer, their mom, then head coach of the Woodrail swim team, dragged her daughters to the outdoor pool at sunrise and let them swim until sundown when it closed.
“My mom always said I was running around on deck with my diapers, so I don’t really remember not ever swimming,” Libby said. “I don’t think it was even a decision. I was already doing it.”
With a schedule that includes morning and evening practices for their RBHS and Columbia Swim Club teams, these days are not too different from those of their childhood.
“Swimming makes us spend a lot of time together,” Kate said. “We have our routine down. We watch the same shows. We have the same schedules. We eat smoothies a lot, and we love frozen yogurt. It works out.”
However, making this sibling relationship “work out” while growing up has not always been easy. With the majority of their lives focused on swimming, they have been through conflicts — from who gets to shower first after practice to who has to sleep on the hotel floor during traveling meets. However, in their final year living together, the girls believe their similarities have helped them to develop a strong relationship.
“We both do butterfly and swim in the same lane most of the time. We roomed together this at the Ozark Invitational,” Libby said. “I think it’s really cool that we support each other.”
The Walkers, who have already qualified for state in each event they have competed, are at the top of the talent pool for their swim teams. They are determined to place well at state. Libby finished first and Kate second in the 500 freestyle at the Como Invitational Dec. 29. With all of these credentials, one would think they would be competitive with each other, but that’s not the case.
“No,” Libby said, “we are only competitive in eating, especially when it comes to fajitas.”
Their sense of humor is relentless. The two said they bond through laughter on a daily basis, whether because of fajita eating contests or, to the dismay of their teammates, Christmas caroling on the way to swim meets. And the enthusiasm doesn’t stop when it comes time to compete.
“I am the queen cheerleader,” Kate said. “When Libby swims the mile, I walk the mile with her. I walk back and forth on the side of the pool. I cheer and I jump, and I dance. We keep each other pumped.”
Libby said one meet where she needed the support of her sister more than ever was Libby’s club team’s sectional meet this summer. She was swimming in the finals of the mile against Division I swimmers from schools from Kansas and Arkansas and said she felt terrified.
“I was really nervous about it,” Libby said. “There was bad air quality, and I was not happy about it. I was warming up and Kate was already done. Then I see her walk in, and she is wearing a ‘Team Libby’ shirt. It literally made my life.”
RBHS swim coach Karen Steger said she sees the Walkers’ attitudes as a major strength for her team as they add key benefits to the team atmosphere.
“Kate has a flair for the dramatic, and it’s very contagious to be around. You can’t help but be happy around her, because she will brighten your day. Libby is great to have around as well. She sets a good example for other swimmers on the team with her work ethic, even though she’s only a freshman,” Steger said. “They both add an incredible amount to the team.”
The girls said they are grateful to have the opportunity to compete side-by-side this year and hope to push each other in practice and competition as the season continues.
“We support each other a lot,” Libby said. “High school swimming has really brought us together because club is so much more individual. Part of my decision for doing high school this year was getting to do it with Kate before she graduated which I thought was something that would be really cool.”
By Emily Wright