Joseph finding her niche at Gannon

Gannon University swimming coach Nathan Walters saw something special in 2011 when then-McDonald High School senior Katie Joseph won the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division II state swimming championship in the 100-yard freestyle.

Joseph, Emily Gysegem from Lakeview and Jordan Moxley from Maplewood – all seniors at the time – were under the tutelage of coach Frank Supancic.

Two years later, Walters is seeing a more accomplished athlete.

“Athletically, she’s changed,” Walters said. “She came in as a sprinter with kind of a cross country background. She’s now a mid-distance, shorter distance-type of swimmer. Her strength is taking over. In high school, she was all about turnover and that sort of thing. She’s transitioned into a different type of swimmer with different events, but still with the same gutsy, tough, grind-it-out work ethic. The other change is mentally. She’s had to adapt to a larger team. She came from a smaller program where she was used to a lot of one-on-one time.

“Now she’s part of a bigger picture. It’s taken some time, but she’s settling into that role very nicely as well.”

Joseph was named to the Capital One Academic All-District II women’s at-large first team in May. She was considered on the national ballot for Academic All-America.

The Gannon sophomore has a 3.84 GPA as a physical therapy major. However, Joseph said she recently changed her major to occupational therapy.

She was named as Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Scholar-Athlete as a freshman and won 10 individual titles and 10 relay championships last season. She was part of four school relay records while recording seven individual NCAA “B” cut times, six relay NCAA “B” cut times and 27 PSAC-qualifying times.

“I was really excited because I worked hard in the pool and in the classroom,” Joseph said. “It was nice to see my hard work pay off.”

She’s learned how to manage her time more wisely.

“It’s getting a little more difficult since I’ve been getting into more of my core classes and my harder classes,” Joseph said. “It really teaches me how to manage my time and how not to procrastinate and things like that. It’s been difficult, but I think it’s a good thing, staying really busy and organized.”

Walters appreciates her maintaining that balance between athletics and academics.

In April, Gannon was named one of 45 NCAA Division II programs honored – ranking 14th nationally with a 3.36 team GPA.

“That’s something she learned and the rest of the team learned from an early age,” Walters said. “I don’t teach them that. I just help reinforce it. That’s something she brought to the team. She’s helped lead the charge to get us back to All-America status. She’s made it cool again to be a double threat academically and athletically.”

Also, Joseph reflects on her time with Supancic. Joseph coaches with Gysegem, who swam at this year’s NCAA Division II Championships for Clarion, at Squaw Creek Country Club. The two coach a summer league for swimmers 5 to 13 years old.

“It’s different, but I like it a lot,” Joseph said. “I feel, even though I’m only 20, I think I have a lot of knowledge and experience with swimming. It’s kind of nice to talk to younger swimmers. It’s a lot of fun, especially with Emily.”

And, she remembers the teachings from Supancic.

“He came in last year once to do a little swim clinic with the team for a day,” Joseph said. “I definitely keep that in mind because he’s such an amazing coach. I would hope to be an ounce of how great he was, definitely do some similar things that he did.”

As for swimming for Gannon, Walters said Joseph has a bright future.

“It took two years to find her niche,” he said. “Now she’s embraced it. It’s not easy to for a sprinter. Physically is one thing. Mentally to go from, ‘OK, I have to swim the 50 and 100 to the 200. Now, I’m doing 200s, 500s and 1,000.’ Mental acceptance was the first challenge. Now that we have that. She’s one of the top athletes in the country. Now that we got there mentally, the sky’s the limit for her. It’s a very difficult task to qualify for NCAAs, but she certainly has the physical attributes. Now she has the mental component. It’s going to be huge with her. The two together, with a girl like Katie, is a big deal, and it’s going to show. I’m very confident in her all those ways.”