Attending Oklahoma Baptist wasn't a longtime goal for Katherine Pendergraft.
“I don't think I knew the college existed until I found out they were getting a swimming program from my coach,” the Edmond Memorial swimmer said with a laugh.
Now, Pendergraft can't imagine a better fit for her academic and athletic future.
“I've always been a small-town person,” said Pendergraft, who grew up in the northeastern Oklahoma town of Kansas before moving to Edmond. “The OBU campus is small and there aren't very many people, so it really had that small-town feel. The professors and staff I met were very warm, and they wanted you to be there. You weren't just another student.”
The OBU swimming program is in its infancy, but it's growing up quick. The men's team won an NAIA championship this past season, and the women's team put a swimmer on Uruguay's Olympic team.
The team's coach, Sam Freas, has coached the South African Olympic team, as well as college posts at Arkansas, Hawaii and LSU.
“He has a special and unique way of working with swimmers,” Pendergraft said. “He doesn't really focus on the team as a whole; he just wants to see everyone work together. There's a real sense of earnestness that I greatly admire about him.”
Pendergraft competed in three freestyle relays and the 100-meter butterfly at All-State last month, and those two strokes are her strengths. But she doesn't know yet where she'll fit in with the OBU team.
“We'll see what I settle into,” she said. “It's very exciting and different. College is a new thing in and of itself. To go into a situation with a team that is gaining a lot of momentum is exciting, too. We'll have the opportunity to build traditions for the team. We're starting things up and building the reputation the school will have.”