Ackerman’s army

Addy Wachter, Photo Editor

The voices of the crowd become muted as her feet respond to the command of the announcer barking, “Swimmers, step up.” The silent pressure from the audience is soon transferred into excited energy. “Take your marks” echoes throughout the pool deck. As she takes one last deep breath, the buzzer goes off and her feet leave the block as she dives into the clear water.

Senior Kathryn Ackerman started in the pool when she was six years old, learning how to float, blow bubbles and kick just like every other swimmer. Over the course of the next 12 years, she would go on to become perhaps the most decorated swimmer in school history, breaking multiple school and pool records and winning multiple state titles along the way.

Even though swimming is an individual sport, Ackerman doesn’t feel she’s accomplished all of this on her own.. The encouraging words from her family, friends and coaches float through her mind whenever she waits on the block or glides through the water.

“I think about my support systems when I can see them at the sides of the pool,” Ackerman said. “Seeing other people cheer me on gets me super excited.”

When she was younger, knowing that her mother Amy, her aunt Katie, her uncle Craig, her grandpa and his siblings were all star swimmers at Grand Haven High School created regular anxiety before races. She felt as if she had to live up to these expectations.

I think about my support systems when I can see them at the sides of the pool. Seeing other people cheer me on gets me super excited.”

— Kathryn Ackerman

“I used to get really nervous when I was younger,” Ackerman said. “I don’t want to say it was because of my parents, but because my mom and everyone in her family swam, I feel like there was a little bit of pressure from there, but I’ve kind of outgrown that.”

Now Ackerman focuses on the motivation from her family and uplifting words that inspire her to be the best she can be. It doesn’t matter if the meet is at the high school or in another state, they are always sure that someone is there in the bleachers supporting her.

“They are so supportive when it comes to meets,” Ackerman said. “I have a lot of meets in so many different places across the country and they’ve been there, one of my parents usually go to the farther away meets but they are at every dual meet and championship meet in Michigan. They’re always asking me how practice is going and how I feel when I’m swimming and those kind of things so they’re always checking in on me.”

Not only does her family cheer her on but so do her coaches. By sitting in the stands during club meets, encouraging her when she is given a hard set and making sure she has a well designed practice that is best for her, Coach Doug Thorne has shown endless support to Ackerman. Thorne has been with Ackerman for the past four years watching her grow through the sport and grow as a person.

“As a person outside of the pool, I have seen her become a better teammate and just an all around better person,” Thorne said. “She is very humble, probably the most humble student athlete I have ever coached. She cares about her teammates and the love and passion that she has for the sport is second to nobody.”

Ackerman has seen lots of success throughout the years and has won various awards for her talent and effort. She has won numerous state championships, broken countless records and Ackerman’s times have gotten her accepted into the University of Michigan and qualified her for the upcoming Olympic Trials.

Addy Wachter

“When she was in eighth grade, I knew we were getting something special,” Thorne said. “I can not describe it enough other than she is just very humble. You could see from day one that she is not somebody who wants to stick it into somebody’s face. But she has an inner drive like nobody else.”

Now that Ackerman is officially signed to the University of Michigan, she will be two hours away from her family, friends and coaches. Even though she is going off to this school, her support system will follow her and continue to be with her.

“I know that my family has already purchased Michigan swimming shirts and hats,” Ackerman said. “They are excited to make the trip over to Ann Arbor to watch me.”