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THE GRIND: Furious schedule has been worth it for Lambert senior swimmer Katherine Aikins
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Lambert senior Katherine Aikins has been a part of Lady Longhorns swimming teams that have won three straight state championships.

Between swimming for Lambert and Swim Atlanta, Katherine Aikins has been asked to compete in numerous events throughout the latter stages of her competitive swimming career. The senior says there is no greater event for her than the 50-free, an all-out sprint through the water where every little detail is magnified.

“You just go as fast as you can,” Aikins said. “A lot can happen though. If you mess one thing up, you’re done. I just like to go fast.”

Out of the water, Aikins’ life has been a dash of its own. She began swimming at the age of 5, joined competitive year-round teams when she was 9 and, after moving to Georgia a year later, has focused on swimming obsessively since.

Along the way, she has accumulated quite a list of accomplishments. She was part of Lambert’s 2012-13 state championship team, and the 2013-14 championship team, and last year’s. In the last two state championships she placed second in the 50-free with times of 23.29 and 23.58. She has competed in numerous prestigious club level events, and in that time drew the attention of numerous college coaches.

When her time at Lambert is done, she hopes to help the University of Georgia’s swim program remain at its peak. Georgia’s women’s swim team has won six national titles, including the last two.

Transitioning from a young, curious swimmer to a top prospect, headed to an elite swim program, has been a whirlwind for Aikins, but she said that even though her progression has gone by fast, she’s always countered the pace of the journey by taking time to reflect on what has gotten her to this point. Her reflection pushes her forward.

“I do think about it a lot because I need to,” Aikins said. “I need to think about it to stay motivated. Swimming is a lifestyle. Going to practice, meets, recovering from it. It’s a busy life, but you kind of have to stop and think about what you’re doing it all for and what you have achieved.”

Aikins said it’s the people around her that push her forward.

“For my team. For Lambert. My club team, Swim Atlanta. Everyone who has helped me along the way, like my coaches, family and friends,” Aikins said. “Pretty soon I’ll be doing it for Georgia.”

Aikins earned attention from college coaches early on in her high school career. She said it was a culture shock, especially at such a young age.

“I definitely had to adjust to it,” she said. “I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what to do or how to talk to coaches or what to say, or anything. It was hard to get used to, but the more I did it the more it got easier. The fact that a coach wants you on your team, it’s such a great feeling.”

Aikins said, even though she came from North Carolina, with parental ties to North Carolina State University, that Georgia always felt like where she needed to go.

“I knew from the beginning I wanted to go there, but I needed to check it out for myself,” Aikins said. “Once I got there it confirmed it for me. I had been there for club meets before. I just knew how good the women’s team was and wanted to be a part of it.”

Aikins’ sprint up the ranks is not over. Her goal for the next few months is to prepare for and win a fourth-consecutive state title for the Longhorns.

“The first time, we couldn’t believe we won it,” Aikins said of the title from her freshman year. “It was so awesome.

“The past few times have been a great feeling. Every year it’s really competitive.”

Every moment Aikins jumps into the water she realizes her time with the Longhorns is fleeting. She’s soaking it all in.

“It’s kind of crazy,” Aikins said. “Time has gone by so fast. I’ll just miss how special it was winning state with all of them, how exciting everyone was, the team is just so cool. I’ll miss our coach, coach (Kerry)Langley,  she’s so sweet. I love her. We just have a lot of fun.”