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January 22, 2021

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Katey Stuart, a Gator, turned Bulldog, now a Polar Bear swimmer

Two-year captain and senior on ONU women's swim team

By Bud Denega 
Katey Stuart didn't want to compete athletically past her high school years. Even after obliging to swim at Ohio Northern as a freshman, Stuart still had a strong urge to step away from the sport.

Stuart never did. She never quit the sport she'd done since she was four. She never ended her athletic career.

Now, she's a two-year captain and a senior dead set on finishing that swimming career in the best way possible. 

Started swimming with the Ada Gators
Stuart has many constants in her life. She is born and raised in  Ada and started her swimming endeavors with the Ada Gators. 

Kyley Stuart has swum alongside Katey Stuart every stroke of the way. The two are twins — one of two sets of twins within the Stuart household — and their bond has strengthened throughout the years. 

"I always joke and say, 'It's a slumber party every night,'" Katey Stuart said. "We fight like any other siblings, but you always have a friend wherever you go."

The two graduated from the Ada Gators and continued swimming for a YMCA club in Lima before suiting up for Ada High School. Katey Stuart experienced quite a bit of success in the high school ranks, advancing to the district meet all four years. 

Yet still, Stuart thought all along that her final district meet, her high school senior night festivities and her last practice as a Bulldog would be it. She thought those events would mark the end of the swimming story about Katey Stuart.

"I never wanted to do a sport in college," Stuart said. "It wasn't until the first weekend of freshman year that I met the team and I was like, 'OK, I'll try it for a year.'"

Stuart enjoyed the connectedness of ONU swim team. She enjoyed raucous home meets inside the ONU Sports Center, going on road trips with the team and simply spending time outside the pool with her teammates. 

Yet still, Stuart had qualms about signing on for a second year with the Polar Bears. 

"My teammates kind of convinced me to try it another year," Stuart said. "I remember being pretty set on not wanting to come back, but my teammates were definitely the reason why I did."

Sophomore season won Stuart over again and she returned for a third season. But junior year would be different. 

Stuart was now one of the older and more experienced athletes on the team. Couple that with the fact that Northern was bringing in a new coach, and Stuart needed to blossom into not just a factor in the pool but a leader out of it, as well. 

Always willing to lend a listening ear
"Katey is a captain who is always willing to lend a listening ear," ONU head coach Austin Veltman said. "She is approachable and her teammates trust her. She does an excellent job at helping her teammates through the challenges that a swim and dive season present, but is also not afraid to hold everyone accountable. She demonstrates selflessness, but can also be tough — two character traits that make her an effective leader."

Stuart led by example, but wasn't afraid to vocalize when needed. She led through cheers and consultation all while doing quite a bit for the Polar Bears in the pool.

Stuart helped ONU finish third at the 2019 Ohio Athletic Conference Championships and earned All-OAC honors for her role on the 200-yard medley relay team. She also logged a personal best in the 200-yard individual medley, a race Veltman won't soon forget.

"She just went after it, and it's a 200-yard race, so going after it hard in the first 50 can sometimes not work out so well," Veltman said. "She shot off the block and went after the first 50, and I'm sitting there going, 'Oh boy, this could be painful.' She just hung on, and hung on, and had the lead in the race from the very beginning and never relinquished it."

More to come 
Veltman and Stuart both believe there are memorable moments that haven't yet been written. Another OAC Championship still lies ahead. It stands as one final swim chapter for Stuart, who, quite honestly, thought the book would have already been scribed. 

"It's the love of the sport that got me here," Stuart said. "But it's the love of the people I'm doing it with that has kept me here."