Power looks to grow, ‘epitomizes’ ideal student athlete
Minutes removed from the 400-yard freestyle relay win that lifted the Cougars to a conference-opening victory Thursday morning at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center, Katie Power cooled down with her teammates.
With a big chunk of her day now gone after Houston’s dominant 183-117 win over Tulane, the junior from Kingwood hit the books to study.
For Power, the time commitment is difficult but keeps her on top of her studies, including organic chemistry and other courses her biology major entails.
“The swimming actually helps a lot more than you would think,” Power said. “It takes five or six hours out of your day, but it makes you know that you have to do it.”
Swimming has also taken her to new heights, including back-to-back American Athletic Conference team championships.
Now, Power looks to build on her previous two years at Houston.
In the two-and-a-half years Power has been at Houston, she has not seen a bad season.
Her freshman year saw her post four lifetime-best times, while her sophomore year saw Power mark some collegiate-bests, including a 25.93 50-yard backstroke split and 100-yard backstroke split of 54.65 her sophomore year.
But it was not always like that.
Before college, Power had lost her passion for swimming, and her attitude toward it deteriorated.
“From high school, I had horrible mentality towards swimming,” she said. “I hated it.”
Even during her freshman season, Power’s stance toward her sport remained “Eh.”
Much of the growth since then, Power said, is due to the increased coaching quality she’s received since the transition from high school and The Woodlands Swim Team to college.
“Every year, my mentality has gotten a lot better,” Power said, digging back to her high school and early UH days. “I’m back to loving swimming again. Going from my high school coaches to my college coaches has helped a lot.”
Power credits head coach Ryan Wochomurka and the rest of the coaching staff for helping her balance her academic and athletic lives throughout the transition.
“I would come in here and be terrified of biology and swimming,” Power said. “Coaches would tell (me) to just leave it out of the pool.”
Although Power, who led UH to a 200-yard freestyle relay conference title in 2018, loves her sport again, her heart is set on academics and her future career.
For Wochomurka, Power “epitomizes the statement ‘student athlete’” because of her balance of education and sport.
“She takes her academic pursuit 100 percent seriously, and that’s her endeavor,” he said. “Luckily for us, she approaches the swimming aspect with the same tenacity.”
Wochomurka, in his fifth season as swimming and diving’s head coach, is pleased with Power’s development at Houston, especially academically.
“I’m more proud of her pursuit on the academic front,” he said. “The research she’s been able to do, and the things she’s been able to pursue academically — that’s her first priority.”
Twice an AAC All-Academic Team honoree, Power hopes to attend the University’s new medical school once she graduates.
From there, the third-year swimmer plans to become a primary care physician, a main reason for her staying in her native area.
Houston is notorious for its oil and gas and aerospace industries, but Texas’ most-populated city also plays a big part in medicine.
Growing up just 30 minutes north, Power attributes the Texas Medical Center as her reason for staying in the city.
That, and the Cougars’ success in swimming, is what has kept her at UH.
“It was 50-50,” Power, whose father works at the Texas Medical Center, said. “Fifty percent team and 50 percent the medical center. I love that we have the largest medical center in the world.”
With other native Houstonians staying in the city, like junior Kaley Hoffman, freshman Claudia Blowers and sophomore Rachel Hicks, Wochomurka is glad swimmers take advantage of a school “in their backyard.”
“The opportunity for us to have Houston natives, like Katie Power,” he said, “is important for us.”
Because of those like Power, Wochomurka and his staff make recruiting in the Houston area a priority.
“Just like any other sport on our campus, there is a plethora of talent here,” he said. “Not only can you get a world-class education, you can compete at the highest levels here.”
The educational opportunities and the chance to stay in Houston, Power said, were the forces driving her to the University.
“I love it so much,” she said. “ I get to represent the city that I’ve lived at my entire life, and I love this school, too.”
As for her career after swimming, Power knows one thing is certain — she is staying in this city.
“I really don’t think I would have wanted to ever leave Houston,” she said. “I want to be here my whole life.”