No matter if it’s just swimming for fun or for a state championship, when Kenna Ramey comes out of the water to breathe, she’s smiling.
The Federal Way High School senior is one of the fastest swimmers in Washington, having won three state titles.
This weekend, Ramey will look to add two more in her final state appearance. The Class 4A preliminaries begin at 9:45 a.m. Friday at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.
“I’ll be smiling,” said Ramey, the two-time defending champion in the 50-yard freestyle. “I always say that I’m happy to be here. I’m just a happy person.
“My coach always asks, ‘How are you smiling? It’s 5 a.m., and we’re getting into a freezing pool!’ ”
Said Federal Way coach Carla Boone with a laugh: “How does she not get water in her mouth? She just loves swimming. She has since Day One.”
Ramey’s ability to thrive under pressure also helped her win the state title in the 100 butterfly in 2012. She will swim that event and the 50 free this weekend.
“She has something in her mind to do, she goes out, and she executes it,” Boone said. “But then she gets out of the pool, and she’s so humble about it.”
Ramey, who started swimming in a summer league at age 5, said she can’t imagine not being in the water. Before joining her first club team at age 11, she tried synchronized swimming.
“After I quit, I had a month without a sport, and I felt so lost,” she said. “So when I came to swimming, I knew that was it. I have had the passion for the sport from the start.”
She also enjoys putting Federal Way on the map as not just the city where the state meet is held but a place from which state champions hail.
“It’s kind of cool to be the underdog,” she said. “We’re not really looked at as a school that’s going to do well as a team, so I love being able to represent for the Eagles.”
Boone said Ramey’s dedication sets a good example for her teammates. She scheduled her college visits around Federal Way’s meet schedule to ensure that she would be able to compete.
“She’s showing the younger kids that you’ve got to show up,” she said. “She’s always been a leader.”
Ramey said she plans to announce her college plans after her final race Saturday. She plans to swim at an NCAA Division I school and possibly study athletic training.
“I am excited to know I am going to fulfill my dream,” said Ramey, who also swims for the King Aquatic Club and next month will compete at Junior Nationals in North Carolina.
“If I ever did doubt myself, I knew it would be worth it in the end because I would be able to be a college athlete.”
Boone said she is confident that Ramey will make a name for herself.
“She loves the challenge, she loves to be the best, and she’ll fight for it — mentally and physically.”