Freshman Kate Douglass’ impressive resume touts a laundry list of achievements. She competed as a member of the 2018-19 U.S. National Junior Team, swam at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games and the 2017 Junior World Championships, set numerous high-school records in the state of New York and qualified for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials in four events — the 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke, the 50-meter freestyle and the 200-meter individual medley. All of that was before she even stepped foot on Grounds her first year.
In the beginning of her first collegiate season last November, Douglass set Virginia records in four events while at the Tennessee Swimming and Diving Invitational, and she hasn’t stopped there. Most recently at the ACC championships, Douglass posted the best time in the nation this season for the 200-meter individual medley, also setting an ACC record. She has also been named the Women's ACC Swimmer of the Week three times throughout her freshman season.
Douglass currently holds three all-time individual school records — the 50-meter freestyle, 100-meter butterfly and 200-meter medley — as well as the 200-meter medley relay record with her teammates junior Caroline Gmelich, sophomore Alexis Wenger and senior Morgan Hill.
“You can ask [Douglass] to make a technical change, and she has such great feel for the water that she can make the change immediately,” Coach Todd DeSorbo said in an email to The Cavalier Daily. “She is also the most versatile swimmer I have ever worked with — she can swim pretty much everything. If she wanted [to] and had the opportunity [to], she could likely be on the U.Va. top-10 all-time list in every single event.”
Douglass started swimming at a young age with a summer club team, though she was involved in other sports at the time, like soccer. Eventually, she recognized that she was best at swimming and switched to doing it year-round, eventually joining the Chelsea Piers Aquatics Club where her swim career took off.
Throughout her college selection process, Douglass never made a huge list of schools to consider — her mind was set on a select few. The Pelham, N.Y. native ultimately found her way to Grounds because her parents, who both attended schools in Virginia, recommended that she take a look at the University due to its combination of both academic and athletic prowess.
“It was the balance between academics and athletics that really pulled me in here,” Douglass said. “Then I really just didn't look at many other schools after that because I loved it so much.”
Despite the distance from her home in the suburbs of New York City, Douglass didn’t have much difficulty adjusting to life on Grounds, though she still appreciated the visits from her parents.
“I kind of wanted to get out of my hometown a little bit,” Douglass said. “I knew a bunch of girls on the swim team coming into school, so I felt pretty comfortable with everyone on the team already when I got here.”
A typical day for Douglass often includes two practices. At 5 a.m., Douglass wakes up in order to catch a ride with an upperclassman to a 5:30 a.m. lift, which is followed by an hour of swimming. After that, she goes to class, takes a much-needed nap then goes to practice again. While the team doesn’t practice twice a day for the entire week, when they do, swimming takes up a lot of time.
“I don't really have a lot of free time with swimming and classes,” Douglass said. “But it's fine because the swim team girls that I'm with all the time, [they’re] a great group of girls, and we help each other out.”
Even given the time-intensive demands of her practice schedule, Douglass says that the transition to balancing school and academics has become somewhat manageable thanks to the support system provided by the athletic department.
“It was difficult at first getting used to it,” Douglass said. “The coaches and all the academic coordinators make everything so much easier for us and help us when we miss work for meets and everything.”
Douglass is one of seven Cavalier freshmen on the team this year, and she rooms with fellow swimmer Maddie Donohoe.
“It's just a great group of girls that make swimming so much fun,” Douglass said.
While she does spend a lot of time with those in her year, Douglass admires the upperclassmen on the team, as she looks up to their attitudes and their strength throughout the season.
“I look up to all the upperclassmen on the team,” Douglass said. “They've all been through four years of this, and it's just impressive how they've lasted so long … [they’re] what I want to be like.”
Douglass’ focus at the moment is preparing for the NCAA championships, which she only has a few weeks left to prepare for. After that, she plans to take a break before beginning training for the Olympic trials held at the end of June.
Though she has certainly performed well so far in her first collegiate season, Douglass doesn’t have a strict mindset when it comes to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer.
“I'm trying not to go into it with any high expectations,” Douglass said. “I'm just going to try my best and be as prepared as possible.”
Though Douglass may be modest about her future, DeSorbo sees promise in the freshman.
“The sky is the limit,” DeSorbo said. “She has Olympic-level talent and could be an NCAA champion before her career is over.”
Douglass will compete with other Virginia women’s swimmers at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships beginning March 18 in Athens, Ga.