As a program, there are plenty of sports that people think of when they think about Kasson-Mantorville athletics. The KoMets have been successful in multiple sports over the past couple of years, but one sport that doesn’t get thought of much is swimming. With no official program at K-M, the thought of swimming kind of gets swept under the rug as kids usually stick to basketball or volleyball.
K-M senior Olivia Wilcox has a different thought process on the matter. After hitting the water for the first time in second grade, she has developed into one of the most successful swimmers in the area. Thanks to her accomplishments in the pool, she earned a full scholarship to swim at Youngstown State, a Division-I program beginning next fall.
“I think it’s awesome,” Wilcox said of her swimming career. “I kind of hope that it gets more people involved. It’s something different and not something that everyone does. It just seems like everyone does the
same sports, especially girls, because the choices are kind of limited. There’s basketball and volleyball and it seems like that’s what everybody does.”
Wilcox’s different path began when she joined the Rochester Orcas with a friend when she was 7 years old. Although her friend would choose a different sport after trying it out, Wilcox loved being in the water and immediately took to the spirit of competition.
“I think I loved the atmosphere and the racing,” Wilcox recalled. “You’re kind of doing something for yourself, but it’s still a team sport because you have relays and you’re with the same people all the time. It’s more of that team aspect.”
With the sport being offered in Rochester, getting to practice would be a challenge sometimes for a teenager without their license. However, where there was a will for Wilcox to be in the water, there was also a way to make it work.
“It was really crazy,” Wilcox laughed. “I probably went through five different people in two years that swam or they were going into Rochester and I would catch a ride with them. I wound up doing morning practices because it was easier to go in before school and before everyone was working. It was interesting."
The hard work paid off as Wilcox found success in the 50 meter freestyle and 100 meter backstroke events. Eventually,
Youngstown State head coach and former Minnesota swimmer Ryan Purdy came calling and offered a recruiting trip. Initially, there wasn’t a positive impression of the Ohio school, but once she got there, that opinion changed quickly.
“I looked at other colleges and when I went on this recruiting trip, I wasn’t expecting anything because people said it was in a run-down town,” Wilcox said. “When I got there, I loved everything about it including Coach Purdy, the rest of the coaches and the team. They’re really close just like we are here and that’s what I was looking for.”
Along with the team atmosphere, Wilcox was also impressed with the university’s dedication to athletics under former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel. She also was impressed with the academics the university had to offer as she looks to go into pre-dental beginning next fall.
“They’re up and coming,” Wilcox said. “I’m really impressed with what Coach Purdy is doing down there and how much they put into their sports, but they still think of academics pretty highly, too.”
In the end, Wilcox looks back on her high school career fondly and will swim for the Rochester Swim Club this winter. She hopes that with her success, other kids will want to get involved and that swimming for K-M students won’t be as under the radar as it is now.
“I think being in a different kind of sport made me a different person,” Wilcox said. “I had to be alone a lot because a lot of people don’t understand swimming especially at K-M where they ask ‘What do you do at practice, just look at the bottom of the pool and run laps?’ I always say ‘What do you do at basketball practice, just dribble a ball back and forth?’ It’s different, but swimming is a lot more fun than it actually sounds. If they’re int rested in it, they should get involved.”