A&M Consolidated swim team

A&M Consolidated swimmers (from left) Susie Smith, Brett Hyman, Claire Riley, Grace Yeh, Kaitlyn Owens, Andrew Larsen, Chris Novosad and Stone Ahrendt are competing at the Swimming and Diving state meet this weekend in Austin.

For A&M Consolidated’s Kaitlyn Owens, there is only one goal at the beginning of every swimming season — make it to state.

On Friday, Owens will make her third consecutive trip to the Class 5A state meet in Austin after qualifying for four events on Feb. 1 at regionals.

“Going into high school the goal is make it to state and win,” Owens said. “I know that is the goal my team has set at the beginning of every year, and I think we’ve worked really hard this year for it. We’re ready to show everybody that we’re here to get the victory.”

Owens will compete in the 50-yard freestyle, 100 backstroke, 200 medley relay and the 400 freestyle relay in Friday’s preliminary rounds along with nine of her teammates that also qualified for state.

Sydney Criscitiello, Susie Smith and Claire Riley will join Owens in the 200 medley relay, while Owens, Riley, Criscitiello and Brett Hyman will compete in the 400 freestyle relay. Riley will participate in two individual events — 50, 100 freestyles — and Criscitiello was called up for the 200 freestyle.

Andrew Larsen will represent Consol’s boys team in the 50 and 100 freestyles, and Sara Shankar, Grace Yeh, Chris Novosada and Stone Ahrendt will travel with the team as alternates.

Consol head coach Jenny Marquardt said the girls team has shown a unified front this season, proving to be hard to beat especially in relays.

With both relays seeded fourth for the state meet, Owens said it’s important to remember the work her team put in to get to state and what the ultimate goal is.

“The goal of working up through the season is for state, of course, but my goal is to do as well as possible at state,” Owens said.

“I knew I was going to get there. It’s just working for how fast I go at that meet.”

Now in her junior season, Owens is one of the leaders on the squad and always puts the team first, Marquardt said.

“She is a really talented athlete who thinks of her teammates as her family and wants everyone to be in it together,” Marquardt said. “She’s just as excited for the swimmer who learned two strokes and was able to compete at the district meet for the first time ever as she is for the state champion.”

Although the trip to Austin is second nature to Owens, it’s not something that’s guaranteed.

“You have to be consistently coming to practice, be ready to put in the work and make the adjustments every time you hit the water. She does that,” Marquardt said.

Owens found her passion for swimming after getting a flyer about a summer league swimming team when she was just 6 years old. She’s stuck with it since then and already has had success at the state meet. She won the 100 backstroke as a freshman in 2018 and finished second in three other events over the past two years. Owens also plans to continue swimming in college.

“Swimming is kind of addictive, and it’s definitely a love-hate relationship,” Owens said. “You hate practice, but you love the meets. Swimming is just very unique, and it was a sport that I fell in love with when I was little and kept it up.”

Owens started a trend in her family as both of her younger brothers are also swimmers, including her brother Brendan, who is a freshman for Consol’s swim team. Owens said being on a team with Brendan offers them a chance to spend time together, something they didn’t get to do before because of her busy swimming schedule.

“We’re like normal siblings. We like to argue, but it’s fun to see him progress,” Owens said. “He’s worked really hard this year.”

With state on the horizon, Owens said preparation has mainly consisted of resting and eating healthy. And although she doesn’t have specific rituals before meets, Owens said she does find comfort in talking to people behind the block before an event as it helps take away her nerves and clears her mind.

“I’m not really superstitious,” Owens said. “I get very antsy before I swim, so I do a lot of shaking out. I’m very talkative behind the block, because I don’t want to think. I used to be a lot more talkative, but I’ve toned it down a bit.”

The 5A preliminaries will begin at 10 a.m. Friday at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center. The top eight in each event will advance to the finals set to begin at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.

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