Nov. 11, 2013
By CHRIS DICKERSON
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall University swimming and diving coach Bill Tramel said he likes his teams to finish with a bang.
Senior Sarah Kay seems to be taking that to heart.
The Cape Town, South Africa, native posted five victories in the Thundering Herd's first two meets after the season-opening West Virginia State Games.
In the Herd's first dual meet of the season against UNC Asheville, Kay won the 100 and 200 butterfly as well as the 200 individual medley.
The next weekend against Campbell at Fitch Natatorium, Kay won the 100 and 200 butterfly with season bests in both events.
"The season's off to a good start, so we're excited about that," Kay said. "We've run into some challenges with sickness and injury, but we're doing well so far."
Tramel heaped the praise on Kay, who will earn her degree in International Business in December.
"She's a tremendously talented athlete," the second-year Herd coach said. "She works hard, and she's always looking to improve the little things in her races.
"It's her senior year. I talk with all of my teams about finishing with a bang -- just making sure that your last swim is the best performance that you have. Sarah is doing that."
And she plans to do that all season leading up the Conference USA Championships in late February in Atlanta.
"I'd just like to better all of my times all season and perform well at the conference championship meet," she said.
That drive is evident when Kay talks about her teammates as well.
"The team motivates me," she said. "Seeing all of the others girls training hard makes me want to train equally as hard and to improve myself."
Tramel said Kay's natural talent is a big reason for her success, but that her drive to be even better is what makes her such a special athlete.
"In a lot of ways, as good as she is, she can have a poor swim and she's still pretty good," he said. "Just showing up, she has more talent than most swimmers. It's a lot like Michael Phelps. He could go easy and still smoke you. She's in that situation a lot of times. She can just show up and be successful.
"She went 2.04 in the (200-yard) butterfly against Campbell, and I thought that was pretty good. We focus more on times through the season than victories. That's what we're doing right now. Even if we don't win meets as a team, we can win as a group of individuals by posting our best performances."
Kay said she has loved her four years in Huntington.
"It's been such a good experience for me to study and swim here," she said. "I've met all of my closest friends during my time here. I really like the environment here ... the small town, family environment.
"It's all about Marshall around here. The small community ... I like that."
How Kay ended up at Marshall after growing up more than 8,000 miles away is a testament to how the Internet has made the world a much smaller community as well.
"Basically, I had my swimming times posted on websites, and the former coach here recruited me," she said, referring to former MU swim coach Russell Hunt.
More proof that it's a small world: While at Marshall, she found another South African native in the athletic department. Cade Parton, who is from Durban, played two seasons for the men's soccer team.
"We became friends when he was here," Kay said.
Starting her second season under Tramel, Kay said the future of Herd swimming and diving looks good.
"I think we've handled the changes well," she said of the team. "I can say the caliber of coaching has improved. It feels much more like a Division I program now. We work a lot harder in and out of the pool to make ourselves better.
"We're definitely moving in the right direction."
For now, Kay is focusing academically on graduating in December and starting graduate school in the spring.
"I don't know what's ahead for me year," she said, noting that doesn't know if she'll move back home or stay in the States when she's done with school. "It's so difficult to know for sure."
She's also excited about finishing up her college athletic career on a high note.
"It's my senior year, and I'm excited about that. It's my last time.
I'm happy that my parents will be here for the conference championships. They've never seen me compete in college."
With the new look C-USA, Kay said she expects a bigger challenge at the conference meet.
"It's going to be a lot tougher than in years before," she said. "But I think it will be really good for us. I know the team will be working hard and be ready for the challenge."
This article also appears in this week's issue of Herd Insider.