During the Chattahoochee Valley Sports Hall of Fame’s latest ceremony in February, one inductee among the nine honored was noticeably distracted.
Columbus High School swim coach Karen Waters was eighth in the line of nine selected to the Class of 2018, and she spent the duration of her fellow honoree’s speeches shifting her attention from their words to the phone she had on the table in front of her.
Her draw to the phone wasn’t a product of boredom or restlessness as she waited her turn to talk; it was, in fact, her only way to keep up with how her swimmers were doing in the state meet at Georgia Tech.
As fate would have it, Waters’ big day coincided with her team’s biggest day of the year. Conflicted with what to do, Waters’ family and friends convinced her in this instance, she had to do something for herself and attend the induction ceremony.
Even then, Waters couldn’t just wait and see how her team did.
“It’s very emotional just to even be here and having this honor and be associated with so many of these people. Just to have all that and still worrying about my kids at state,” Waters said after the ceremony. “Some people probably thought I was being rude if they were watching me playing on my phone. I sent them all a text this morning wishing them luck and telling them all I was there with them in spirit.”
Waters’ swimmers handled the task just fine in her absence. The Lady Blue Devils one-upped what was a historic performance in last year’s state meet by taking third overall as a team. The Blue Devils, meanwhile, took 12th for the best finish of any Columbus-area team ever.
Thanks to her work with the Blue Devils and Lady Blue Devils, Waters has once again been named the All-Bi-City Swim Coach of the Year.
“It was incredible,” Waters said of the past season. “I thought we were at the top last year when the girls finished fifth and a little bit lower with the boys. To go past that was just beyond my expectations. I’m so proud of each and every one of them.”
Waters said the team’s camaraderie set itself up well this season, but the team didn’t show its true potential until the regional meet. At that point, the individual swimmers came together and consistently produced their best times, giving Waters a glimpse of what could happen at state.
The only issue was they would have to show out without her there.
As Waters awaited her turn to speak at the induction ceremony, the Columbus swimmers were making waves in Atlanta.
Katie Jordan took third place 200- and 500-yard freestyle and also swam a leg on the third-place 400 relay with Lindsey Conroy, Kylie Davenport, and Madigan Starr. Conroy, Davenport, Starr and Kaleigh Feger finished fifth in the medley relay, with Starr also taking fourth in the 100 backstroke.
On the boys side, Chase Parker wound up fourth in the 200 freestyle and 100 breaststroke. Parker, Will Beatty, Fabrizzio Orderique and Taylor Williams ended up eighth in the 200 freestyle relay.
As for that induction night, Waters managed to get the best of both worlds by refreshing the phone for updates and still having her personal moment of glory. Despite the successful double-duty work, Waters was honest in her assessment of the endeavor.
“It was neat to still follow along without being there, but my heart was with them at Georgia Tech,” Waters said.