By Lesley Van Arsdall
FRANKLINVILLE, N.J. (CBS) — For most high school athletes, playing sports is just another activity that needs to be balanced with classwork and family life.
For disadvantaged athletes, it can be a struggle just to compete on the same level as your peers. But, a senior swimmer is defying the odds in South Jersey, inspiring others with her positive attitude and unmatched resolve.
Kathlyn Walker entered this past weekend’s Gloucester County Championship swim meet with one goal in mind.
“My fastest time is a 1:20:02, so I’d like to beat that,” said Kathlyn Walker, Delsea High School Swimmer.
Kathlyn is a Senior at Delsea Regional High School, and she’s been swimming since she was just three years old.
But Kathlyn is unique among the hundreds of swimmers at this meet.
She was born with a rare genetic disorder called “Thrombocytopenia with Absent Radii”, abbreviated “T A R”.
Kathlyn does not have radius bones, bones that help to make up the human forearm.
“I was kind of shocked the first time I saw her jump into the pool. The whole aspect of not having any arms and being able to do what she did. And her progession each year got better and better,” said said John Meehan, Delsea Swimming Head Coach.
Kathlyn is almost entirely independent in the water. She uses her legs to guide her along, and she’s helped out of the water by her coaches, or her Mother Kathie. She says she learned her technique over the years.
7th or 8th grade our school has an intramural program, and they teach us the strokes and stuff, so that’s where we did it.
“We’ve been working on being on the block, and jumping into the pool it’s all about kick and her turns too,” said Meehan.
Kathlyn takes part in the girl’s 50 yard freestyle, and the 200 yard freestyle relay. And sure enough, this weekend, she set a new personal record, beating her 50 yard time by just 7 tenths of a second.
Meehan “It’s such a loud noise when she finishes a race, it just gives you goosebumps,” said Meehan.
In addition to setting a new personal record – she also took home the MVP award. Her positive attitude and engaging personality make her a favorite among teammates, coaches, and the community.
“The community comes out and wishes her well,” John Delia, Delsea Swimming Assistant Coach. “She’s just got such a positive attitude and she doesn’t look at the bad side of anything”
Kathlyn says she wants to be either a psychologist or a guidance counselor when she graduates in the Spring, and she’s currently considering a number of local colleges.