SLIPPERY ROCK — It was one of the most difficult decisions Katie Antal has faced in her young life.
But it was one the Slippery Rock High junior felt she needed to make.
Antal, who qualified for the PIAA Swimming and Diving Championships in both the 100 breaststroke and 200 individual medley as a sophomore, decided to leave the Rockets’ swim team before this season.
Instead, Antal has opted to compete as a member of the Seneca Valley Swim Club.
“I decided that to get where I needed to get, I needed to focus on something bigger than just states,” Antal said.
The Seneca Valley Swim Club has several groups and Antal is in the most advanced one, swimming at local, regional and national meets.
It’s highly competitive — just what Antal wanted.
It also requires a great deal of sacrifice.
On most mornings, Antal rolls out of bed at 4:50 a.m. to drive to Seneca Valley for a morning practice. To Antal, though, it is worth it.
“I can focus a lot more on trying to get better,” Antal said.
Seneca Valley Swim Club coach Brian Blackwell said Antal’s hectic schedule is paying off.
“She’s made a lot of sacrifices,” Blackwell said. “She’s almost in the car more than she’s in the pool. Katie is really getting back to the fundamentals of swimming, getting back those ‘swimming smarts.’ I’m really excited to see how things go in the next couple of weeks and see her get to the next level.”
Antal has lofty goals for herself. She wants to qualify for the Junior Nationals, coming just short this summer in the 100 breaststroke.
At the Pitt Christmas Meet last month, Antal broke a Seneca Valley Swim Club record in the event with a time of 1 minute, 6.30 seconds.
That mark was just three seconds off the qualifying time for the Junior Nationals.
Antal said she believes it’s just a matter of time before she hits that qualifying mark.
“I definitely feel like it is within reach,” Antal said.
“I think her chances are really good,” the coach said. “She’s in a good environment for her to flourish.”