Katey Rowden learned to swim when she was just a toddler, but her early attempts did little to point to a successful career in the pool.
“I failed my first class because I wouldn’t stick my head in the water,” Rowden recalled. “I did it again, and here I am!”
After being named the top female swimmer at the District 6-4A meet, the Decatur freshman enters this weekend’s Region II 4A meet in Keller as the top seed in the 50-yard and 100 freestyles. She also will swim on the Decatur’s 200 and 400 freestyle relays, seeded second and first.
At the Jan. 28 district meet, she won three gold medals and a silver.
“I knew the Lord would do something amazing, and he’s blessed me with a wonderful team and coach,” Rowden said. “But you can’t get anywhere without hard work. I wouldn’t trade the hard practices for anything.”
Rowden tries to work in two practices per day, before and after school, swimming with the high school team and her club squad – Quest Aquatics.
“She works hard,” said Decatur coach Doris Dennard. “This is all she does. She puts in the time to be good.”
She began swimming competitively when she was 8 at the suggestion of a swim instructor. Four years later, she hit her Texas Age Group Standards, qualifying for the long-course state championships in Austin. As a 12-year-old, she brought home 12th place in the 50 and 14th in the 100.
Through the years, she’s grown to love swimming pushing her to excel.
“If you love the sport, you automatically want to do your best,” Rowden said. “There’s no judges, and you’re competing against yourself.”
Rowden tried her hands and legs at other sports but felt like a fish out of water.
“I was not coordinated at all,” she said. “I was the one on the floor a majority of the time.
“I love the water. You can’t hurt yourself. It’s safe.”
It has not been safe for her competition as the fast and powerful Rowden has distanced herself from the pack in both of her sprints. She’s won the 50 at district by nearly a full second and in the 100 was a full second clear of the teammate Audry McCreary.
“She’s fast, but she’s also so strong,” Dennard said. “A lot of younger swimmers are fast, but may not be strong. She’s both.”
The greatest display of strength at district came in the 400 freestyle relay when she chased down the competition to bring home the gold medal.
“I like it when there’s someone to catch,” Rowden said. “But that was definitely a team effort. Haley [Dennard] had a good start. Kate [Grant] for a long-distance swimmer did awesome in her distance. Audry got us back up there.”
While entering the meet as the top seed in three events, Rowden isn’t taking anything for granted this weekend.
“Anyone has a chance when you come to this meet,” she said. “I definitely want to be [in Austin]. I definitely want to take the relay.”
In her short events that last 25 to 58 seconds, there’s not much margin for error.
“It’s all out, and you’ve got to have everything timed right and be on top of things,” Rowden said.
“I’ll do my best. It’s all for the Lord. I wouldn’t be anywhere without Him.”