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The Dispatch

The student news site of James Bowie High School

The Dispatch

The student news site of James Bowie High School

The Dispatch

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Para-athlete swims for ‘Dawgs

Freshman Kate Alexander is aiming to compete in the 2032 Paralympics
KICKING+HARD%3A+Freshman+Kate+Alexander+swims+the+backstroke+race.+Alexander+holds+a+personal+best+time+of+one+minute+and+46+seconds+in+the+100+meter+backstroke.
Photo Courtesy of Kate Alexander
KICKING HARD: Freshman Kate Alexander swims the backstroke race. Alexander holds a personal best time of one minute and 46 seconds in the 100 meter backstroke.

As the starting pistol sounds, ringing across the water and echoing throughout the arena, freshman Kate Alexander explodes through the air, cutting the surface tension of the water like a knife. Swimming hard, Alexander carves through the pool.

25 yards later, Alexander gracefully pushes off the opposite wall and makes the turn. Hearing the shouts of encouragement from her teammates and coaches, Alexander wills herself to swim faster as she closes in on the finish line.

Reaching forward, Alexander touches the wall of the pool, emerging to find that in her first Bob Stallings Aggieland Invitational she managed to record a personal best of 35.73 seconds in the 50 yard freestyle competition.

“I always set a goal for myself,” Alexander said. “It’s always an exciting thing to improve, whether it be beating someone else or recording a new personal best time. It gives me motivation to keep going. At the same time though, I try to relax and remind myself that it’s not the end of the world if I don’t swim my best race.”

Alexander first began swimming when she was eight years old. Since then, the freshman swimmer has competed in a number of races, including freestyle, fly, backstroke, and breaststroke in various competitions.

“It really helps me with my confidence, and it brings me joy like every time I do it,” Alexander said. “For me, swimming is like an escape from reality, especially if I’m having a rough day. It makes me stronger and makes me happy.”

Unlike many of her competitors though, in 2021, Alexander was diagnosed with a form of peripheral neuropathy known as Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT), a hereditary nerve disease that impacts muscle control.

“It’s been hard to swim because I’m swimming against able bodied people, when I’m the only disabled swimmer in most competitions,” Alexander said. “So, it’s been hard, but I’ve accepted who I am, and I’ve learned to set my own goals, while also competing with other swimmers.”

Despite CMT, Alexander continues to swim competitively. In December 2023, Alexander had the privilege of competing against the fastest para-swimmers in the country at the U.S. Paralympics Swimming National Championships in Orlando, Florida.

“Swimming has definitely made me feel more confident throughout my entire life,” Alexander said. “It shows that I’m capable of doing things and it gives me a lot of motivation. Overall, it improves my self-esteem, partly because of having such supportive teammates and coaches.”

At the Paralympics National Championships, Alexander raced formidable competition, including collegiate para-swimmers, in six different categories of various lengths and strokes. Freshman Logan Jones details Alexander’s mentality that propelled her to the pinnacle of para-swimming in America.

“Kate doesn’t let her disability hold her back and she never stops working hard,” Jones said. “Seeing the effort and positivity she puts into every swim makes you want to try harder. It’s tough after a hard race to keep the positive energy and not pass negative energy to your peers, but Kate is always in a good mood and is always ready for what comes next, it’s inspiring.”

In her most successful race at the National Championships, Alexander finished 14th overall in the 100 meter butterfly with a time one minute and 45 seconds. Throughout the 2023 fall season, Jones experienced first hand the immense dedication of Alexander that led to her national success in the 100 meter Fly.

“Kate has a great ability to take criticism and focus on it and make it better,” Jones said. “She is a very determined person and it’s always inspiring to see someone with that quality. Her positive attitude and determination will take her far.”

In preparation for the National Championships, Bowie head coach Carr has integrated Alexander into multiple meets to help Alexander continue to improve. In order to do so, coach Carr has adjusted to the freshman’s CMT.

Kate’s positive outlook and attitude influence her life in all areas. The glass is always half full with her, and she can achieve anything.

— Chloe Carr, Kate's swim coach

“Coaching a para-swimmer means working with the swimmer, as I do with all swimmers,” Carr said. “Working with Kate has been a breeze. She’s great at advocating for herself, and we’ve built much trust. She knows what she needs and knows she can tell me, and I will understand and respect her needs.”

As a student-athlete, Alexander is responsible for balancing her educational and swimming commitments. According to Carr though, Alexander’s uplifting attitude allows her to be impactful in all of her activities.

“Kate’s positive outlook and attitude influence her life in all areas,” Carr said. “The glass is always half full with her, and she can achieve anything. She is always working hard to be successful in and out of the pool. She always supports and encourages the swimmers, and she uplifts the team with her light.”

Having attended the 2023 National Championships, Alexander’s next target is the 2032 Paralympics in Australia, where she hopes to represent the United States. However, Alexander also has other goals she aims to achieve presently and in the coming years.

“I’m trying to spread awareness,” Alexander said. “I want the Paralympics to be more popular because I know there’s a ton of other people with disabilities out there who don’t think they belong in their sport. But, everybody’s a person and there’s a path for everyone. I think if people like that can find the para-athletic world, they would feel much more comfortable and they would be around people more like them. So, I want to promote it and share with the world more about para-athletics.”

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