Tribune Girls Swimmer of Year: Kat Simonovic - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

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Tribune Girls Swimmer of Year: Kat Simonovic

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Posted: Sunday, January 1, 2012 4:20 pm

For Kat Simonovic, maybe it was fate or serendipity that she ended up winning the state 200 freestyle title three years in a row.

That also may help get Simonovic to the biggest stage of all - the Olympic Games in London next summer.

It all started in 2009 when Simonovic, as a freshman, entered the 200 free after her coach said it seemed to have less competition, except that Xavier's Haley Krakoski was the favorite that year. Krakoski is now competing at Auburn.

"Once I beat her, I got the confidence that has carried me for the last three years," Simonovic said of her freshman-year win.

Now a junior, Simonovic has won the event in each of her three high school seasons, and added an unlikely win in the 100 free in November to earn Tribune Girls Swimmer of the Year honors.

Simonovic trains for the distance events and that is what she will concentrate on in workouts well into 2012 for her Olympic dream.

As the daughter of Serbian nationals, Simonovic holds dual citizenship and has competed for Serbia in international junior meets. There isn't another Serbian who is as fast as she is, so she could represent that country in the London Games next summer. She admits her times are not among the best in the world, yet.

"But to get a chance to go the Olympics would be a great experience," she said. "Just to see how far I could go - even if I finished in the top 30 in the world."

The road includes a grueling swimming/weightlifting training regimen and two big meets in early 2012 to qualify.

Simonovic says she "hates to lose" but doesn't mind the challenge.

That was the case in her other big state high school win: The 100 freestyle.

She said she was not in shape to compete in the other distance event (the 500 free) coming into the fall and decided to try the 100 instead.

"You always have to be confident going into a race," she said. "So I told myself I wouldn't want to race myself and everyone else would have to race me."

As opposed to the 200 free, where Simonovic said she knew many of the competitors from high school and club competitions, in the 100 free she didn't know who she was going up against.

She had the third-best preliminary time but powered past standout Maggie McCord (Tucson Canyon del Oro) and freshman phenom Victoria Toris of Pinnacle in the final for her second win of the day in a near all-American time of 51.02 seconds.

She has competed on the international level, but there is something about Arizona high school swimming.

"I go to the national meets and the pressure is nowhere near what it is here," Simonovic said at the state meet. "Arizona swimmers, I don't know, we are just really into it. It's so high, the expectations and competition level."

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