SARASOTA — Alex Katz had no reason not to trust his sister.
She had never steered him wrong.
Alex looked up to his older sister, Taylor, so it wasn’t surprising that when she told him to join the swim team the then 8-year-old agreed.
After all, it was supposed to be fun.
Although, Alex quickly learned his newfound sport wasn’t quite as appealing as his sister had made it out to be.
“I had nothing better to do, and my sister asked me to come one day,” Alex says. “I didn’t really like it at first. She used to rub it in that she was better.”
But, rather than letting his sister get the upper hand, Alex decided to stick with it. Once he got past his disgruntlement about having to practice, Alex began to warm up to the sport.
“Up until then I hardly ever went,” Alex says. “It just started to grow on me. I liked the meets, but I didn’t like practice.”
He began watching his sister’s work ethic and competitive nature and, before long, the two siblings were making names for themselves in the pool.
“She trains really hard and I kind of learned from her in that respect,” Alex says.
This past summer, Alex, a junior at Riverview High, and Taylor, a senior, both qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials — a feat they had been dreaming about for a long time.
“It was very cool,” Taylor says. “It had been a goal of mine to go for years. So to finally be there was really awesome.”
Taylor admits she wasn’t particularly nervous when she walked onto the deck at the Olympic Trials. After all, there were 50 lanes from which to choose.
It wasn’t until she looked over and realized she would be swimming next to two-time Olympic gold medalist Janet Evans that reality began to sink in.
“I told myself no one was watching,” Taylor says. “Then I looked over and Janet Evans was right next to me and everyone started screaming.”
Alex had a similar experience when he found himself in the pool alongside Nick Thoman, who would go on to win a silver medal in the 100 backstroke.
“It was exciting,” Alex says. “It was the highest level meet I’ve been to, and it’s (fun) to be in a swimming competition like that and see how you stack up against them. I think I did pretty well considering I swam my best times.”
Alex and Taylor competed alongside one another Nov. 9 for the final time as members of the Riverview High swim team at the Class 3A Swimming & Diving Championships in Orlando.
Taylor defended her 200-yard freestyle and 500 freestyle titles and also led off the Lady Rams victorious 400 freestyle relay, as her younger brother cheered her on.
“I was nervous,” Taylor says. “I won both events last year, so you don’t want to be the defending state champion and then go in and lose. I had pretty high goals for myself, so I was excited and relieved.”
“I was happy for her,” Alex says. “She was really nervous beforehand, so it was good that it all worked out. She’s just worked so hard for it.”
Similar to his sister, Alex helped lead the Riverview boys team, finishing second in the 200 freestyle and third in the 100 backstroke, as his sister looked on.
“I don’t like watching him swim,” Taylor said. “I get more nervous for him that I do for myself. I (always) want him to do well.”
Following her state championship performance, Taylor signed a national letter of intent to swim for the University of Florida next year. Taylor chose Florida over the University of Michigan and Texas A&M.
“It’s very relieving,” Taylor says. “It was kind of a stressful decision. It’s a big decision. I really liked the swim coach and the team. Plus, it’s close to home.”
The siblings will now spend the remainder of the year swimming for the Sarasota Sharks, before preparing to swim on different teams for the first time in eight years.
“It makes things easy,” Alex says of swimming together. “We get along. We always kid around. Sometimes we give each other a hard time, but we’re siblings.”
“We’ve always been on the same team,” Taylor says. “I like having him around.”
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].