Oct. 21, 2009
When Clemson swimmer Katrina Obas stepped onto the block at the 2009 ACC Championship meet, she knew it was important to do her best, but she did not know how good her best really was.
Obas, a senior from Ottawa, Ontario, was prepared to handle this meet just like any other. Standing behind the blocks for the 100 breaststroke, Obas did her traditional swing of the arms and shake of the legs and stepped up, ready to take on a head-to-head race with Florida State’s Kylen Huntwork for a spot in the finals.
“I was so determined to beat her that when I touched the wall, I looked for the placing before I looked at the time,” said Obas.
That time, a secondary detail to Obas, turned out to be a school record for the 100 breaststroke.
“I didn’t realize I broke the record until my teammates came running to my lane to congratulate me,” she said. “It was an incredible feeling.”
Maybe it was this determination in the water that inspired Tiger Swimming & Diving Head Coach Chris Ip to name Obas one of the captains for the 2008-09 season. Or maybe it was the way she leads the team on land as well. Obas boasts a 3.93 GPA, is a three-time Academic All-ACC honoree, and has an extracurricular activity list that includes talking to Anderson County students about the Be a T.I.G.E.R! program. Either way, she is taking her duties as captain very seriously.
“My goal is to win an ACC medal and qualify for the NCAA Championships,” Obas added. “The conference has been getting faster every year and I’m trying to jump ahead. I also really want the team to place higher this year at the ACC meet and beat South Carolina. As a captain, hopefully I can lead us there.”
As a child, Obas knew that swimming was going to be the sport for her. “When I was young, I tried many sports, but my mom knew that swimming was for me because she couldn’t get me out of the water at swimming lessons and during our trips to the lake. Because of that, I joined a competitive swim team.”
From then on, Obas became a talented swimmer. “I beat the Canadian national team qualifying time standard (set by Swimming Canada) for the first time when I was 14. When you make this standard, you are able to compete in national competitions where you can qualify for international competitions, such as the Olympics, Pan Am Games, World Championships, etc. The time standard changes almost every year to adjust to how much the nation as a whole is getting faster. I have competed in two Olympic Trials and many other trials for international championships.”
With her club team (Nepean Kanata Barracudas), Obas became a standout, breaking three squad records (50, 100, and 200 breaststrokes). She began the process of sending out letters to American colleges and Clemson made a lasting impression on her.
“Because I am from Canada, I didn’t know much about American college swimming and how to get recruited,” admitted Obas. “I sent emails to schools that I thought were generally interesting and based my decision on my recruiting trips. My recruiting trip to Clemson was by far the most welcoming and I knew the Clemson swimming program would be the place for me.”
Obas soon found a place in Tigertown. As a freshman, she swam into the top 10 in Clemson history in three events at the ACC Championships. She swam the third-best time in school history in the 100 breaststroke, the second-best time in the 200 breaststroke, and the fourth-best time in the 200 meter individual medley.
As a sophomore, she improved on her 100 breaststroke time, recording the second-best time in Clemson history at the ACC Championships. She also improved on her 200 IM, recording the second-best time in Clemson history. Obas had one of the best meets of her career against N.C. State during her sophomore season, winning the 100 breaststroke, 200 breaststroke, 200 individual medley, and 200 medley relay.
As a junior, she was named a captain for the 2008-09 season at the postseason banquet in addition to being named most dedicated in the weightroom. She also improved on her times at the ACC meet, breaking the school record in the 100 and 200 breaststroke. Obas also swam the breaststroke in both school record-setting medley relays.
Obas has certainly found a home in the Southeast. “Ottawa is completely bilingual in English and French with more sayings and word pronunciations than in the South. I usually get made fun of for the way I say things. Southern accents were also a hard thing for me to get a handle on. I couldn’t understand any of my professors from the South during the first few weeks of class during my freshman year, which was very frustrating.”
Obas has been able to separate herself from the business of the big city and learn to live the small-town life. “I really enjoy the slow pace in a small college town like Clemson.”
Let’s just hope she does not let that “slow pace” affect her times in the pool.
Chandler Carver, a senior from Greenville, SC, is a student assistant in the Clemson Sports Information Office.
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