Stroke of success leads Kaelyn Dougherty to South Carolina

The St. Hubert High School is heading to the University of South Carolina after an excellent year.

St. Hubert senior Kaelyn Dougherty will attend the University of South Carolina on a swimming scholarship. SOURCE: KAELYN DOUGHERTY

It was the perfect match.

The University of South Carolina provided everything Kaelyn Dougherty wanted out of a college, and the St. Hubert High School senior was exactly what the Gamecocks were searching for.

It was a match made in heaven.

“South Carolina was always one of the schools at the top of my list and I loved it when I visited it,” said Dougherty, a Winchester Park native. “It has great academics and great athletics. I loved the campus and the people. It was just a great environment. I think it will help me experience some culture and broaden my horizons. And I really liked the coaches.

“They said they like me for my versatility and that meant a lot to me. I work really hard to be an all-around good swimmer.”

Dougherty can do it all, but her favorite events are the 400 individual medley and the 200 breaststroke.

This summer, Dougherty showed the world what she could do when she excelled at the Junior Nationals, swimming the IM in 4:17.58 and 2:18.45 in the breaststroke.

“The IM is my favorite because it’s the hardest to do, you really have to be in shape and working to do well in it,” said Dougherty, who officially signed with the school last Thursday afternoon at a ceremony held at the school. “It’s also good because if you fall behind a little bit, you have time to make it up.”

Dougherty attributes her success to a combination of hard work and natural ability. She has been swimming for as long as she can remember. Her mom, who also swam at Hubert, signed her up when she was a child, though at the time she was swimming for the Jersey Wahoos.

She still swims there, and also competes on the WInchester Swim Club.

“I think I had natural ability, people tell me that,” Dougherty said. “But I work really hard. Swimming is a hard sport, but we practice a lot.”

The sport occupies much of Dougherty’s time.

She often practices before school and then practices again when classes are dismissed. After that, she trains outside the pool, lifting weights and doing cardio.

“I don’t have much time to see my friends and family because we’re always swimming, so whenever I have time, I love to hang out with my friends and family,” Dougherty said. “I’m really close with my family and I love being with my friends, but I love swimming, too, so when I’m practicing, I’m still having fun.”

She expects the same busy schedule when she gets to South Carolina.

The Gamecocks are ranked 24th in the nation, and Dougherty knows that to have success, you have to put in the work.

She’s all in, but before she starts swimming in college, she still has a lot she wants to accomplish with the Bambies.

The biggest thing is bringing home a Catholic League championship.

“We really want to do better than we did last year,” said Dougherty, who helped the Bambies reach the Catholic League championship last year. “I really hope we win a championship because it’s my senior year, and also because I want to show people how good St. Hubert’s swimming is.

“There are a lot of good swimmers here. I wanted to help put the swim team on the map, and they’re doing that. We have a good team.”

Dougherty is ready to help the team any way she can. And now she can give her undivided attention to the program.

“At the start of my junior year and senior year, I was a little worried about college, deciding where I’d go and who wanted me,” Dougherty said. “I was happy to find out I was going (to South Carolina) because it’s something I don’t have to worry about anymore.”

She also doesn’t have to worry about selecting a major. She plans on studying exercise science.

“I want to become a physical therapist,” Dougherty said. “I never got hurt, but I know a lot of athletes who have gotten hurt. I think as someone who plays competitive sports, I could relate to what they’re going through and help them.”

Until then, she’ll be there to help the Bambies.

And she has talented teammates who might be able to use her expertise to help them drop seconds from their personal records.

“I’m always there to help people if they need it, if they have a question about a certain stroke or whatever,” Dougherty said. “I’m not the coach, we have great coaches, but if they need help, I’ll always be happy to help.”