Katarzyna (Kasia) Wilk stole the show at Polish Nationals last week.
Editor’s Note: Wilk competed at the meet under her married name, Katarzyna Wasick
Wilk had some of her best swims and her country’s best swims at the meet. Her performance was highlighted by a new Polish record swim in the 50m freestyle as Wilk became the first woman to swim under 25 seconds with her time of 24.73.
“I mean it was amazing, it’s such an honor to be the first woman in Poland to break 25 seconds and be called the fastest woman in Poland,” Wilk said. “I think my coaches called it before, so I really tried to stay calm and not to think about the time and just swim my race.”
Wilk didn’t stop there. As part of a 4x100m freestyle relay team, Wilk started the relay with a time of 54.22. That topped her previous best time of 54.38, which was also a Polish record.
Wilk herself said it was a great meet for her personally and a few factors lead up to her performances.
“Just training hard and connecting with my coaches and my team made me calm,” Wilk said. “Going to Poland, to my country and being able to race for my club gave me that excitement. I think that made me swim fast too.”
Wilk is able to work with her brother who is also her coach whenever she goes to Poland. Wilk’s brother constantly analyzes her technique and trying to fix certain areas, especially her dives. But after this meet, Wilk said her brother thought she was looking better in the pool.
As a volunteer coach and member of the pro group training at UNLV, Wilk said head coach Ben Loorz and associate head coach Patrick Ota have helped made her a better swimmer and are people she trust 100%.
Since coming to and training at UNLV, Wilk has put up some of her best times in the last few months. There is, of course, Polish Nationals last week, but Wilk swam a 25.10 in the 50m free at the TYR Pro Swim Series in Richmond a few weeks before nationals.
But Loorz doesn’t take all the credit, saying Wilk was a top level athlete before she came to UNLV thanks to her college coach at Cal, Dave Salo.
“She’s really able to implement stuff super quickly,” Loorz said. “She’ll try it a few times and you’re like, ‘Oh wow she’s got it. Good job.’ She’s a machine when it comes to learning, probably better than anyone I’ve ever coached.”
Away from training, Wilk enjoys being a volunteer coach because it helps her with the mental aspect of swimming.
“I really like being in the pool too and being a coach because I know the pain of the swimmers so I really can connect with them and be kind of a mentor for them,” Wilk said. “I know being a coach right now made me realize how important not only swimming [is] but also a mental preparation of other aspects outside the pool.”
Wilk has some time before meets like the 2019 FINA World Championships this coming July. For the next week, she’ll spend time with family away from the pool in her home country for a bit of rest.
But the Polish Nationals did give the three-time Olympian some context when it comes to her goals.
“This meet, the Polish Nationals, gave me a big perspective and made me realize that making the FINA A cuts at this meet a year before Olympics make me realize that I can not only compete for, swim for A cuts, but I’m going to be able to fight for finals,” Wilk said. “I’m setting my goals higher as I go and hopefully this time I’m not only going to be attending the Olympics, but be competing in finals.”