Like her California competitors, Catie has been swimming four to six hours a day six days a week since she was 8 years old. During the school year she works out both before and after classes, which does not leave her much time for clubs or other school activities "You really can't do anything," she says. "I was elected vice-president of my class this year, but don't ask me how. I tried dating, but it just doesn't work out. You don't have the time, and you get too tired. But I must really like swimming, because I can quit anytime I want to. My folks have been great; they don't push me like a lot of parents do."
Like many swimmers, the part of practice Catie dislikes the most is the morning workouts. There are times in the winter when it gets down below freezing, and the steam off the water is so thick that it is impossible even to see the other swimmers. "We spend most of the time just bumping into each other," Catie says. "You wonder why everybody goes to those practices."
It is no wonder, really. It is an Olympic year, and all these girls are too young to have even known any other Olympics. From the time they first splashed through a race, this is the one thing, the one year, they have been after. "Olympic medals are the real reward," says Debbie Meyer, "in my line of work."