Longhorn Hall of Honor: Kara (McGrath) Chavey
Nov. 5, 2012
Blake McAdow, Texas Media Relations
Swimming has been a staple in Kara McGrath Chavey's life since she was just a kid. Even after growing up with seven brothers and sisters, and raising and homeschooling seven kids of her own today, swimming remains one of her greatest passions.
It all started when (McGrath) Chavey was just eight years old. Her swimming club coach in Maryland rushed over to her home, and she stressed to Kara's parents that her family couldn't go on their scheduled family vacation because the championship swim meet was approaching. Her parents assumed that the coach was referring to the need of her two older brothers who also swam at the club, but to their surprise, it was Kara that the coach wanted.
"We need her," he said.
Kara's parents were baffled, but they supported their daughter's passions and talents. From that moment on, Kara has been a champion swimmer and one of the most decorated Longhorn student-athletes.
(McGrath) Chavey's premier event was the butterfly, and she made an immediate impact on the national scene. She finished in the top three nationally in the 200-yard butterfly in each of her four years at Texas. All totaled, she claimed 11 All-America and six honorable mention All-America honors during her collegiate career.
(McGrath) Chavey helped Texas Women's Swimming and Diving to four-straight NCAA titles, which ignited a streak of five consecutive and seven of eight national titles beginning with her freshman season of 1983-84.
"I think back on it, and it almost feels like a storybook to me," said (McGrath) Chavey. "We had a great group of kids and really talented swimmers. We were swimmers who could do incredible things in practice. I remember before coming to Texas, I'd always been the best wherever I went. But when I got to Texas, I was not the best."
When she got to Texas, (McGrath) Chavey had to quickly learn how it felt to be part of a team, despite swimming traditionally being considered an individual sport. The transition was easier than she anticipated, as she quickly learned to love encouraging her teammates and having them root her on when she was having a rough day. (McGrath) Chavey also realized that being part of the team improved her individual approach, because she was able to take the pressure off her swims and focus on the team. She received much of her guidance from the late Longhorns coach Richard Quick, who was at the helm from 1982-88.
"We had a great coach and he was really good in helping us to support one another," said (McGrath) Chavey.
"He had us put our hands together at every practice that first year and yell, 'Orange Tower!' and that was our goal. That first year was especially fun, because we were not ranked as the top team and we were not expected to do as well as we did. It was fun being on the hunt."
(McGrath) Chavey will be one of six former Longhorn athletes and coaches to be inducted into the UT Women's Athletics Hall of Honor on Nov. 9.
"In many ways, I can't believe I was one of the inductees chosen. I swam with a great group of talented people, all of whom I think are deserving of being inducted. I really feel incredibly honored, because I know in all the other Texas sports we have so many athletes who have accomplished so much."