Different Strokes

Kastes Twins Still Pace Each Other Despite Separating for the First Time in 20 Years.

Katie Kastes /Courtesy

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Kylie is one minute older than me," Katie says.

Right from birth, Katie and Kylie Kastes have been racing one another.

They set the benchmark of competition between them early on, using it to dictate how each of them grew to be both a team and one another's biggest competitors.

"We are so competitive in everything," Katie says. "Any time we swam together, every practice was competitive. I think that is what made both of us good competitors and swimmers. We had each other to race in and out of the pool."

Now both collegiate swimmers, Katie is at Cal, and her sister Kylie swims for Tulane.

They began swimming at a summer camp when they were around 10 years old. After discovering an interest, the two of them continued swimming together, unaware of the talent they were harnessing and where that talent would take them.

Once small program recruiters started calling their junior year of high school, the two considered a future in collegiate swimming, Division II or a walk-on position at best. It was Arkansas that seemed to hold a promise.

"Arkansas gave me a chance and gave me a full scholarship. At the time, it was an opportunity that I couldn't pass up," Katie says. "My sister really wanted to go there. The only way she could go was if I went, because I was better.

"I went there for my sister. It wasn't really where I wanted to go, but I did it for her."

The decision on which she based her commitment to the Razorbacks set the stage for what Katie's experience would be like there for the next two years. Katie had her first breakout season, dropping 15 seconds in one of her races as well as posting Olympic trial times. It was also in those seasons that she outgrew the team and the program.

Kylie did not make the conference or the NCAA teams, and she knew that she did not fit at Arkansas either.

"I felt like I was the third string quarterback," Kylie says. "I needed more playing time."

Despite their initial desires to be a part of the same program, there was no question about transferring for a second try.

"We needed two different things," Kylie says. "I needed to be needed and wanted to build up a team, and Katie needed a faster team that was going to push her."

It was then that Katie contacted Cal's Teri McKeever, a coach both revolutionary in her coaching style and for Katie's swimming career.

"I wanted something different," Katie says. "Teri told me, 'I can kick your ass in two hours, and I can kick your ass in forty minutes.' I like that."

And so Katie packed her bags for California and Kylie to Lousiana, peacefully parting a coaching staff that helped push them in their own directions-directions that would take them away from one another for the first time in 20 years.

Kylie was able to step out of the shadow of her sister's accomplishments and build up a program from the wreckage of Katrina. This year, Tulane reinstated its program for the first time since the hurricane and needed someone to lead the team. Kylie stepped up to fill that position. She is now the self-proclaimed "mom" of 16 freshmen, the only upperclassman on her team.

Katie stepped away from a team that was not behind her to find a team that would push her to succeed. At Cal, she isn't the best swimmer. She has posted NCAA qualifying times, but is not the biggest name on a squad that features Olympians. Still, Berkeley is where she has found the most happiness.

"I missed home when I was at Arkansas," Katie says. "This team is my family now. Now that I am out here, I realize that it was not home that I wanted. I just wanted to be accepted."

Now, in the first year apart, the sisters are learning how to lead their lives without their sidekicks. Without the other around to finish sentences or pick up on inside jokes, they have to support one another through phone calls.

"Her success is my success and my success is her success," Kylie says. "She is my best friend, best competitor, best supporter We would drop everything for one another."

For Katie, this season has been full of success. Now, in the middle of her first Pac-10 championship meet, Kylie has one piece of advice for her sister:

"My mom used to always say to us, 'Race your own race, and don't let anyone else in your kitchen.'"

You may not have gotten that, but Katie will.


Contact Kelly Suckow at [email protected]

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