When Katherine Huff started the recruiting process, she focused on top programs that were close to home.
However, some sage advice convinced the Aiken-Augusta Swim League athlete and Lakeside High School senior to branch out a bit.
“My mom said, ‘Maybe you should look a little farther away,’ ” Huff said.
Once she did, she found that Texas A&M in College Station was an ideal fit. In the end, she committed to swim with the Aggies over her other top choice, North Carolina.
“I loved the atmosphere out there,” Huff said. “It was big, it was Texas, and it was different. … I loved the team. Everyone out there was so nice.”
Now that Huff will be swimming a little farther from home than she expected, her mother’s advice ended up backfiring.
“At the beginning, she was like, ‘She’s going so far away,’ ” she said of her mother. “But she’s warming up to the idea.”
Huff brings to seventh-ranked Texas A&M a specialization in freestyle sprinting. As a junior, she finished second in the
50- and 100-yard freestyle at the State Swimming and Diving Championships, narrowly missing out on the crown in both.
She also brings versatility, with strong times in butterfly and backstroke.
Huff already has qualified for next summer’s U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb.
“A lot of A&M girls will be trying for Trials,” said Huff, who noted that she’d also like to make a push for the 2016 Olympic Games.
ASL program director and head coach Adam Byars said it’s no surprise that Huff was coveted by the top programs in the South.
“She was a pretty good swimmer, but she’s one that’s really worked,” said Byars, who has coached Huff since she was 11. “She’s probably one of the most focused individuals I’ve ever been around.”
That focus is required while training 18 hours a week, year-round.
As a sophomore, Huff said she felt “tired and drained.” She also made the only “B” of her high school career.
She decided to take a semester off from competition.
“I still practiced, but I didn’t compete,” Huff said. “Every time I got up to the blocks, it was just like I wasn’t as ready to go.
“It was a good thing that I took it off because I got to really focus on schoolwork,” she added. “Then again, without it, I felt like I just wasn’t the same.”
Refocused, it didn’t take long for Huff to get back into the swing of things. She credits her time with Byars and ASL for her success.
“My whole experience would not have been the same without him,” she said of Byars. “He’s just been my cheerleader, my coach. He’s been everything throughout the whole process.
“It’s going to be so hard to leave him.”