Unforgettable Swimmer

KamRyn Penix, Contributor to Scratch Paper

Swimming, school, social life… would you be able to handle it all?

Inspired by famous swimmers like Katie Ledecky and Hannah Aspden, Senior-Keegan Knott- is Warren Township ́s very own Paralympic star. Managing swim practice, keeping a healthy social scene, and her grades this high school career has had to be one of the hardest things to do. I just had to know how she did it.Keegan said her love for swimming began ̈since I[she} was a baby ̈. She ̈always loved the water and would go all the time ̈ with her family. But it was around the age of 9 that she decided to quit dance and start competitive swimming because {she} wanted to find a sport {she} knew {she} would love ̈. After that, her parents found her a team and she ̈hasn’t stopped since then.”

With a mixture of swimming and just life stuff on her plate, finding the motivation to keep pushing must be quite challenging. For Keegan, her main motivation is ̈the goals I{she} keeps in mind…like getting back on the National B Team and hopefully making the World Championships Team ̈. One of her more ambitious goals is to ̈eventually start a NCAA Division for disabled athletes ̈. Some years from now, we all hope to see her very own division on TV!  Though she has accomplished so many great things, things most people couldn’t even dream of achieving, downfalls are a part of every success story. Keegan said one of the hardestparts of her swimming journey was, ironically, one of her greatest accomplishments. ̈Coming back after Tokyo ̈. She elaborated, explaining that ̈coming back after such a high point in my{her} life was something that was super difficult because it was like, ́well where do I go from now. ́ Like, ́What do I wanna do? Do I want to keep doing this? Do I want to put in all of that hard work over and over, continuously, just because it was so mentally draining ́ ̈. Reaching such high goals can lead you to feel empty or lost afterwards. It also did not help that once she returned, she was held to such high standards by her coaches. She talked about how the coaches would ̈have this whole expectation of me{her} being a leader now ̈ This kind of pressure could lead anyone to want to quit. But luckily, she bounced back from this mindset and realized what she wanted to do and got past those mental blocks.To begin her journey on becoming a professional swimmer and eventually starting her own NCAA division for disabled athletes, Keegan will be D1 while attending Northern Arizona University as part of the 2027 graduating class. And she is currently a part of the Pleasant Prairie Patriots swim team in Wisconsin.  For Keegan, swimming is more than just a sport. Out of the water, she feels that ̈there is so much I{she} can ́t do… Especially as a teeneager because they want to fit in ̈. This struggle to be like those around her started as young as Middle school when she would, ̈always do everything in gym, even if I{she} would be hurting myself{herself} just to fit in ̈. But in the water, Keegan says swimming is ̈very freeing because I am{she is} away from all the physical restraints that are put on me{her} in day to day life.”

College acceptances, National teams, on the student council? It doesn’t seem like there is one thing that can hold Miss Keegan Knott back. She is taking back the stigma that those who are physically disabled cannot do great things, and I am all here for it. She shares that something she would tell those who are scared to take a swing at sports due to their physical limitations is that, “Always feel like you can try something even if it is stigmatized as something you cannot do ̈. She goes on to say that, ̈for me{her} something that was a big struggle was coming into an able-bodied team and being the only person that was physically disabled ̈. It was a ̈huge mental block for me{her} at the time ̈. But Keegan chooses to follow the same advice she gives to others. ̈If you are doing something that you truly love, and you want to continue doing it, do it. ̈ That’s her motto. She says that ̈being a role model for future physically limited athletes is more important ̈ than her negative thoughts. Not only does she have the talents, she has the heart!