Bobbi Kennett believed she was just a freestyle swimmer.
Her coach and teammates knew something more was possible.
The second opinion eventually won out, and Kennett is glad it did. Now the Ridge Point High School senior is in position to win her first state championship.
Kennett will make her third consecutive trip to the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center in Austin for the UIL Class 6A state swimming and diving meet, where she will compete Friday and Saturday in the 100-yard breaststroke and 100 freestyle events.
The trek may seem like old hat for Kennett. She boasts finals appearances in the freestyle each of the last two years and finished fourth in the event last season.
On the other hand, her best shot at a state championship appears to be in a stroke that was not in her competitive repertoire until this season. Heading into this weekend’s meet, Kennett boasts the state’s second-best 6A qualifying time in the breaststroke at 1 minute, 2.70 seconds – .01 seconds behind the time of Klein’s Charlotte Longbottom.
“Before, I used to never think I would ever be a breaststroke swimmer,” Kennett said. “But I worked on it more and realized my shot at winning is the best it’s been this year.”
As the season wore on and she saw a consistent drop in short-course breaststroke times, Kennett began considering the possibility of state competition in the event.
Following a time of 1:01 at a national juniors event last month, that chance became more real.
“My teammates always watched me (do the breaststroke) during practice, and they always told me I should do it,” Kennett said. “But I always thought, ‘I’m a freestyler. I’ll never do that.’ “Breaststroke just wasn’t my thing, because when I swim long-course it’s one of my worst strokes.”
But first-year Ridge Point head coach Ashleigh Glover, who has overseen Kennett’s development as an assistant and now head coach, said tireless work in the pool – which consists of more than 20 practice hours per week – makes her ascent in the event unsurprising. Kennett, a Texas A&M commit, has also been selected to participate in the Canadian Olympic Swimming Trials from March 30-April 5.
“(Bobbi) is the hardest-working athlete I’ve ever seen. It’s basically her part-time job,” Glover said with a laugh.
Kennett’s road to the precipice of a state title began in Colorado, where her sister joined a club team and inspired her to do the same at the age of 10.
After a move to Texas at age 11, her love for the sport only grew as she swam in summer leagues and on club teams around the area and eventually made the varsity team at Ridge Point.
Though Kennett could not pinpoint the exact moment in happened, swimming eventually switched from being a fun pastime to a serious endeavor.
“I’ve always been in love with the sport, competing with my teammates and having fun,” said Kennett, now 18. “But the fact that I put the work in every day made me think that I could take this somewhere and it could be something special. I put in so much effort that I really wanted to make something work.”
That love for the sport manifests in everything Kennett does, according to her coach, and her intensity has rubbed off on teammates.
“(Bobbi) doesn’t just put in the work for herself, but for others as well,” Glover said. “She encourages them to be great. She’s a role model and really holds the standard for everyone else on our team. She knows she can have it all, so she strives to do that.”
By the end of next week, she might indeed have it all.
End in sight
In addition to the breaststroke, Kennett will compete in the freestyle in Austin for the third straight year. She placed 12th at the 2018 meet before vaulting up to fourth last year.
“Mentally and physically, I’m just more prepared for it this year,” she said. “It’s definitely nerve-racking, so most people panic. I panicked my first year. But I’m competing with the best of the best and I know that we’ve all put in the work.”
Amidst the fanfare accompanying the state meet, on top of competing in a fairly new event, Kennett is also drawing on advice from past teammates such as Kylie Powers – who finished second in the breaststroke final in 2018 – to calm her nerves ahead of this week’s meet.
“You deserve to be there if you’ve made state,” Kennett said. “I learned to calm myself in the blocks. I deserve to be there, and I’ve worked hard for this moment. I block everything out and tell myself to just be quiet. This is my chance to be here. … I think about every single stroke, every single flip turn or underwater action.”
Thanks to that approach, Kennett is one of a kind in and out of the pool, according to her coach.
Glover said Kennett has a good chance to win this weekend and hopes she inspires future generations of Ridge Point swimmers.
“I’m hoping to see more like her,” Glover said. “But she’s one in a million.”
Swimming at State
FBISD qualifiers competing
at UIL state meet
feb. 14-15 in Austin
Clements: boys 200-yard medley relay, boys 200 freestyle relay, boys 400 freestyle relay, Charles Bellotti (boys 100 freestyle), Jordan Dorado (boys 200 individual medley), Alex Fu (boys 100 butterfly), Christian Le (boys 100 breaststroke), Anthony Liu (boys 100 butterfly)
Dulles: Beaux Hoffman (girls 200 IM, 100 butterfly)
Ridge Point: boys 200 freestyle relay, Bobbi Kennett (girls 100 freestyle, 100 breaststroke), Michael Kohl (boys 100 backstroke), Taylor Murphy (girls 50 freestyle)