Water Polo, Swimming
Favorite athlete: I couldn't possibly choose a single favorite athlete because I've been surrounded by hard working and determined athletes my whole life. My teammates are my favorite athletes.
Favorite team: The Upper Dublin Girls Swimming and Diving Team.
Favorite memory competing in sports: It was not on the swim team, but on the water polo team. 2015 was the first year Upper Dublin High School represented a girls’ water polo team. At the first tournament during preseason, my good friend and teammate Kelly Regan scored the first goal in Upper Dublin Girls Water Polo history. All of our parents in the stands cheered and clapped and Kelly was beyond excited, waving to her mom with the biggest smile on her face. It was my favorite memory of any sport I've ever played.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: This is a pretty common event when you're as clumsy as I am. Two memories stick out in my mind. Last year, I was swimming backstroke during practice and I swam into the wall, giving myself a concussion. Later that season, I kneed myself in the nose practicing flip turns and, and after going for X-rays a week after the season ended, found out my nose was broken. I am constantly reminded by my two brothers that I've suffered more injuries in a non-contact sport than both of them have playing football and lacrosse.
Music on iPod: My iPod is a variety, with everything from Fetty Wap to Hannah Montana and a whole lot of country in between. My playlist depends on my mood, but before a race or a game, I listen to rap or hip hop to pump myself up.
Future plans: In the future, I plan to attend Temple University as a business major, although nothing is set in stone. I'm confident I will end up where I'm supposed to.
Words to live by: My "words to live by" change on a weekly basis, with a stream of quotes shared by my teammates. My favorites of the past few weeks include "Don't run away from challenges, run over them," "The harder the battle, the sweeter the victory," and "you don't get what you wish for, you get what you work for." I'm inspired by reminders that the harder you work, the greater the pay off.
One goal before turning 30: Before I'm thirty, I'd like to see Upper Dublin Girls Water Polo win states. We've come so far in a single season and I can't wait to come back next year to watch my team's progression.
One thing people don’t know about me: Aside from my mom, people may not know I record motivators in my school agenda book. Every day when I'm checking my homework, I see a reminder, whether it's a quote or a goal, to keep pushing.
By GORDON GLANTZ
As a high school junior – and with the encouragement of her parents – Upper Dublin’s Caitlin McMorrow joined a cult.
And her only regret is not doing it sooner.
The Kool-Aid, in this case, is chlorine-flavored. The cult, as the Univest Featured Female Athlete of the Week calls it, is the Upper Dublin girls’ swimming team coached by Pat Redican that happens to be working on its 27th straight league title.
Before coming out for the team, McMorrow had only competed for the Maple Manor Swim club team.
“I had been doing it since I was six years old, and I always loved it,” she said.
Why, then, did she never consider swimming for her middle or senior high school?
“I wasn’t sure I could commit,” she explained. “The high school experience is totally different. If I have a regret, it is that I didn’t do it sooner. It’s more hard-core, and I have a closer-knit group of friends.”
While McMorrow is not one of the team’s stars, Redican sees her as a vital member of the squad. In an individual sport, she is the ultimate team player.
“Caitlin came out for the team last year as a junior,” he said. “She had only been a summer swimmer, but immediately embraced the rigor of varsity swimming at Upper Dublin. She has been a very positive force with great team spirit and has become a real leader as a senior. She truly is a coach's athlete: hard working, team oriented, and positive in her approach.”
McMorrow started out doing the backstroke for the Cardinals, but that ended the day she got out of the pool and exclaimed, “I hate it. I can’t swim the backstroke anymore.”
It would be fair to say she had hit a wall in the event, and not just in the figurative sense. One day, while practicing, she hit the wall with her head and gave herself a concussion.
Redican has changed her to a distance swimmer, which is where she has found her niche.
“She joined the Water Polo team this past fall and that put her in much better shape for this year's season,” said Redican. “As a result, she has become one of our best distance swimmers and her best event has become the 500 Freestyle.”
McMorrow said she started off the rigorous event by hearing the “Rocky” theme in her head, but the problem was that “Stayin’ Alive” would pop into her brain. She agrees that being part of the school’s inaugural girls’ water polo team – coached by Chris Ianni, who is an assistant under Redican – has made her a better distance swimmer.
“The 500 is a product of water polo,” she said. “It is a 20-lap event, and I was always more of a freestyle swimmer.”
While crediting Redican and Ianni for being “incredibly patient and attentive” in guiding her steady improvement, she fully embraces her larger role on the squad.
“My biggest contribution is as a teammate -- or as a friend -- more than scoring points in events by coming in first or second,” she said.
Her greatest talent?
“I give some pretty good pep talks – and pretty much right on the spot,” she said. “You want to encourage everyone.”
The team practices five hours a day, and McMorrow can often be heard telling her teammates, “You got this. Keep pushing through.”
She added that even though swimming is seen by outsiders as an individual sport, nothing could be further from the truth.
“Everyone on the team counts,” she said. “With the individual aspect, you are competing against yourself and your own times.
“We have been labeled as a cult. We spend so much time together. There is no negativity, at the end of the day.”
Creating a Legacy
As for water polo this fall, she was open to totally new experience.
“I hadn’t played before,” she said. “I was learning the sport as I was playing it, as were the rest of my teammates.”
Ianni created a motto for the swim team, which was “Create Your Own Legacy,” and he believes no one embodied that as much as McMorrow, who read a letter to the Upper Dublin School Board to advocate funding for the sport.
“Caitlin was a paramount part for having such a successful first season for the girls’ team,” said Ianni. “Even though she really had no background knowledge of the sport, she showed such a strong commitment and a willingness to learn, which carried over into the attitude of her teammates, who were primarily freshmen and sophomores, and really instilled qualities that helped develop the program.
“Her leadership and strong work ethic propelled the team, and she continuously provided encouragement to her teammates, especially when many were getting frustrated learning and playing a new game which wasn't always easy. She sets a great example, in and out of the water. She was always the first one there ready to go for practices -- even mornings when we start at 5:30 a.m. -- and, because of all these qualities, was named co-captain of the team.”
While the fledgling high school girls’ team was hard-pressed for victories, it was an experience she will treasure for a long time.
“It was a humbling experience but, at the same time, a great experience,” she said. “We picked it up so quickly. It was awesome to be part of something that is a first.
“We only won two or three games, but we competed. That was the cool part. We gave some teams a challenge.”
As for the physical nature of the sport, she was just grateful she had been toughened up by two brothers.
“Girls are more scrappy, I think – and more personal, too,” she said. “Your survival instinct just kicks in.”
McMorrow took her crash course in Water Polo 101 a step beyond, helping to launch the middle school program by serving as an assistant coach.
“We had 25 middle school kids, grades 5-8, wanting to learn the game for the first time, and Caitlin helped out on deck during the practices, would help explain the rules, and drills, and would travel with us during the games on Sundays, which really wouldn't give her a day off,” said Ianni. “Her enthusiasm, passion, and respect for the sport and her teammates went a long way with those first-time players, which contributed to them really enjoying their season.”
McMorrow added that Ianni’s passion sparked her enthusiasm.
“His dedication inspired us,” she said. “We really wanted the team to succeed. We felt like we owed to him.
“I really have to thank my coaches. Coach Redican accepted me right onto the team. I didn’t expect that, but he was so involved. Mr. Ianni was new, like I was, and he was already setting goals for me. He just really cared, and that was really cool.”
While swimming and water polo – a fall sport – take up most of her time, McMorrow is a member of the National Honor Society and the French Club, which has allowed her to travel to both France and Quebec City.
She brings the same bright-eyed attitude to the classroom as she does to the natatorium, where she also works as a lifeguard, and has as much appreciation for teachers as she has for coaches like Redican and Ianni.
“I have been blessed with amazing teachers,” said McMorow, whose course load includes honors history and AP language and composition. “Upper Dublin is just really, really amazing. All my teachers really care.
“Any teacher I’ve ever had has been invested in the students. Whatever you give them, they give back to you – times 10.”
And there is her family – mom (Stacy) and dad (Gavin), older brother (Colin, now at Temple) and twin brother (Brandon) – and the bond formed when Gavin McMorrow was diagnosed with colon cancer when Cailtin and Brandon were in fourth grade.
“He was still at games, cheering me on,” she said. “I was in fourth grade, so I guess I didn’t understand that much. I was just told that, while cancer was a scary word, to understand that he was going to get better.
“It was hard to see, when he was going through chemotherapy, but he recovered. He likes to say he is on overtime for it.”
McMorrow refers to her mother as “one of her heroes” for her outlook on life, as exemplified by her job as a developmental Kindergarten teacher, working with children with developmental issues – such as Asberger’s Syndrome – who are not ready for regular schooling.
“My mom, who never played a sport, taught me all about kindness,” she said.
It stands to reason that her parents saw no reason for her not join the cult known the Upper Dublin girls’ swimming team while she was getting mixed messages from her friends.
“My parents pushed me,” she said. “They said, ‘you can do it.’”
And, no matter where she places, she has not looked back.
“I don’t like getting out of the pool not feeling like I didn’t swim as fast as I could,” said McMorrow, who is looking forward to the future with the same level of enthusiasm.
“Where I end up is where I’m meant to be,” she said of college. “I’m not worried about it. I’m excited.”