Swim Cats hope to make a splash

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By Tommie Kendall

The Henry County Swim Cats started their program three years ago when Kaitlin and Kara Blair were eighth graders. Now, with dozens of races behind them and attainable goals ahead, the twins hope to make a splash as juniors.

The team, composed of Kaitlin and Kara and coached by their mother Melanie, opened its season at the Family Activity Center (FAC) in Shelbyville on Dec. 1 and Dec. 5, and is scheduled to compete at the FAC again on Jan. 9. There are a few changes in store for the sisters this season, which Melanie hopes will equal more success when they dive into the pool again.

The Swim Cats will use dry-land training on a regular basis for the first time, race in fewer meets to concentrate on intense training and mix it up with different events in the few meets they do attend.

"We've done dry-land training before, but not routinely," Melanie said. "Adding the dry-land training exercises as part of the practice time each day has helped to increase flexibility, strength, stamina and endurance for swimming.

"We will also have fewer meets this year to focus on practice," Melanie added. "And this year our plan is to compete in different events just to keep it fun and interesting."

Henry's daily routine includes swim time at the FAC from 4-5 p.m., followed by dry-land training until 5:45. The Swim Cats have been practicing since Oct. 1, which gave them much more pre-season training than a year ago.

Last October, the Blairs went on a vacation to Hawaii, where they witnessed the biggest earthquake on the island since 1975. Following their return back to Kentucky, both girls came down with strep throat, and Kara was later diagnosed with Mono while Kaitlin experienced ear and throat infections. Between the Hawaii vacation and the illnesses that followed, the twins missed more than two months of training.

After the delayed start and a few meets at the FAC, the Blairs ended their 2006-07 season setting four season-best times out of four races at the Region 3 Championships. Kaitlin tapped poolside in the 200-yard IM - composed of 50 yards of butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle - in 2:43:89 and finished the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:23.5, while Kara completed the 100-freestyle in 1:09.81 and the 100-breaststroke in 1:29.32.

Now, older and more experienced, the twins are ready for round three.

The Swim Cats opened this season Dec. 1 against Shelby County and Louisville Manual at the FAC, which has become Henry's home pool. Kaitlin completed the 100-breaststroke in 1:23.08 and the 200-IM in 2:47.05, while Kara completed the 200-freestyle in 1:21.47 and the 100-butterfly in 2:36.05.

They were back in action Dec. 5, competing against Shelby and Scott High School at the FAC. Kaitlin won the 100-breaststroke in 1:22.87 and Kara came in second in the 200-freestyle in 2:32.87. Kaitlin also competed in the 200-IM (2:46.86) and Kara competed in he 100-butterfly (1:21.39).

Henry will compete at the FAC Jan. 9, at Danville Jan. 12 and at the FAC on Jan. 26 before the Region 3 Championships. The regional meet will be held at the Falling Springs Arts and Recreation Center in Versailles Feb. 8-9, with the top two swimmers in each event automatically advancing to the state meet, held at Louisville the following weekend.

"We are excited about the season," Melanie said. "We are already swimming as good as last year and hope to continue getting better."

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