"Kati is probably only on the Charleston team because of me," Mindi Luehmann, 20, admitted. "If not, she would probably just swim at Cape."
So, Kati swims on the Charleston team as well as the Cape Girardeau Gators in the summer. And during the winter months, when the Charleston swim team doesn't meet, she just swims for the Gators.
And for Kati, swimming on the Charleston team during the summer is simply for fun. "It's more laid back," she explained. However, she added her Gators coach sometimes gives her extra techniques to practice.
Swimming has been a past time for the Leuhmanns, all of Charleston, for several years. Mindi, the oldest, caught the swimming bug when she was young. Her involvement quickly spread to include the entire family, and Kati began participating on the swim team when she was 4.
Although Mindi got burned out from swimming when she was 13, she has been coaching for the last three years. And it is a job she would do, regardless of whether her sister competed. "I coach because I love it and they needed a coach," Mindi said.
And their youngest sister, Courtney, 14, swims during the summer as well. "I just do it for fun," she said. Courtney is also the assistant coach of the team, which she said is mostly because of her sisters' involvement.
Having her two sisters as coaches is a bit difficult for Kati, although they don't treat her any differently than other swimmers. "Its hard to listen to your sister when she's telling you to do something," Kati said. "It's like she's bossing you around."
And the Luehmann sisters don't have higher expectations for Kati just because she is family. "They just expect me to listen better than the others," Kati laughed.
Kati has received several awards, including high point at Southeast Missouri Swim Conference Championships, which contains 11 teams from as far north as Farmington and south to Kennett. In her Winter 2004 session, she was honored as the Senior Most Valuable Swimmer and qualified for sectionals.
At sectionals, Kati qualified for zones. "It's a step on the way to Olympic trials," Mindi said.
And at the AAU Junior Olympics in Des Moines, Iowa, last year, she won first place in six categories: 200 free, 200 breast, 100 free, 100 breast, and 200 individual medley, which incorporates butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle.
Last year, Kati received the top time in all but one category for fifteen to eighteen year olds in the Southeast Missouri Swim Conference. She also holds the all-time records for 100 breast, 100 free, and 50 free.
"Setting the records makes me feel good," Kati said. "It makes me work harder."
And she does have to work quite a bit. In the summer, she participates in a meet every weekend, and two per month in the summer. And she practices for two and a half hours a day, four days a week, with summer practices at 5:
"She's very dedicated and works very hard," Mindi said of her younger sister. "It's really hard to swim everyday like that, especially when she has a 45-
minute drive to Cape."
Being an active swimmer also keeps Kati from participating in other activities, like high school sports. "Sometimes it (swimming) also keeps me from hanging out with friends," she said.
Kati admitted she sometimes feels like quitting when practice gets hard. But she keeps swimming because of the enjoyment she gets from it.
And she hopes to make swimming part of her future, at least in college. Kati, a junior at Charleston High School, said she is looking at the University of Missouri - Columbia.
But before heading off to college, Kati is working to attend Junior and Senior Nationals, which she said will require really fast times.
She is also hopeful, yet realistic about making it to Olympic trials in the future. "It will be neat to go to Olympic trials," she said. "But it will be really hard to make it."