BY SHERI TRUSTY
It wasn’t difficult to hear the wonderful news that Kami Periat is a state swimming champion. Police cars and fire trucks blared the news as they paraded her through Port Clinton on Wednesday, March 1. The marching band played in her honor during a pre-parade pep rally, and middle school and elementary students cheered her name as she drove by.
Periat became the 100 backstroke state champion during the Division II Swimming and Diving State Tournament in Canton. It was an accomplishment the Port Clinton High School junior once thought was outside her reach.
“As a freshman, I didn’t think I had a shot,” she said. “Last year, I was runner-up in the 50 free, and I started thinking, ‘I may have a shot at this. Maybe it’s not so crazy.’”
What is crazy is that the win came after Periat made a mid-season switch to the backstroke.
“I had played around with the backstroke last year but had not trained,” Periat said. “It was scary to me to switch. Many of the other backstroke swimmers had been doing it since middle school.”
Periat pushed through her fear and the challenge of a late start and committed to a win. Moments before a pep rally held in her honor, Periat shared her advice for young swimmers.
“The biggest problem with sports right now is that people are not as devoted as they used to be. It takes a lot of time and hard work.
“Doing a school season isn’t enough,” she said. “And make sure you enjoy it. You have to think about the positives all the time. It you don’t, it can affect your performance.”
Swim Coach Dan Diaz was a poolside witness that Periat practices what she preaches. He said her dedication and work ethic won her the state champion title.
“She’s a true student of the sport. She doesn’t just work harder. She dissects everything,” Diaz said. “And she supports the swimmers around her. It’s not just about her but what she can do to make everyone better.”
Periat’s work ethic didn’t keep her fear at bay.
“I had a lot of doubt. You never know if you’re working hard enough,” she said. “To have it all be done and know I reached one of my goals is good. It’s a lot of fun, but the season is so long.”
Diaz wasn’t surprised at Periat’s state championship win or at the overall success of the team, which ended the year with many medals.
“This year – this group of juniors and seniors – I’ve coached them since they were six years old. Even at that time, I knew they were special,” Diaz said. “It’s nice to see it come to fruition.”
But there is still fruit to bear next season as Periat and the other juniors return for their senior year.
“They know what I expect, but the challenge is knowing I can’t keep doing what I’m doing and expect different results,” Diaz said. “I’m already thinking about what I can do to make them even better.”
Periat, too, is already looking ahead.
“Next year, I want to keep my place at state, and I want to do the 100 freestyle,” she said. “I’m going to work really hard to get another title.”
But for now, she is enjoying the win she worked hard to grasp, and she’s thankful the school honored her with a pep rally and a parade.
“The school does a lot to give us recognition, but nobody cares about swim,” she said. “I was not expecting this at all. It was really, really nice of them.”