By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
After signing a national letter of intent to swim for Bellarmine University on Tuesday, Caroline Smith took a few moments to thank the people who had made the biggest impact on her life.
Her parents. Her brother. Her friends, teammates and coaches.
Still, there was one special person who wasn’t there for the Madison Central senior’s special day.
“I want to thank the most important person who could not be here today — coach Tim Cahill,” Smith told the crowd at the Madison Central High School library. “Because without him, none of this would ever have been possible.”
Smith started swimming at age 5 with Cahill at Arlington Country Club. The Central standout swam for the long-time coach as part of Colonel Aquatics until his death in 2010 from pancreatic and liver cancer.
Cahill was a driving force behind Smith’s success and the coach’s slogan, “Attitude is Everything,” was displayed on a banner behind the senior as she signed.
Cahill’s wife, Judy, was also present as Smith made her college choice official.
“Arlington was one of the best things that ever happened to me,” Smith said. “It just creates an entirely new family. My three best friends since I was five years old and I met at Arlington. The swimming community is so tight.”
Next year, Smith is set to join a new program.
Bellarmine announced this spring that the school was adding NCAA Division II men’s and women’s swimming teams that would begin competition this season.
On Oct. 26th, the Knights took part in their first event, a meet at Xavier University.
“I think it’s going to be a really cool experience,” Smith said of a new program. “It’s new, so the team and me will be able to make it our own.”
Bellarmine’s swim teams compete in the Great Lakes Valley Conference.
The school’s teams are coached by John Brucato, who was a long-time assistant coach at the University of Kentucky. He spent 12 years at UK and coached the Wildcat Aquatics clubs since 1990.
Brucato is a former Kentucky Swimming Coach of the Year, served as an Olympic Festival Coach and was friends with Cahill.
“Certain things about him remind me of coach, which is very comforting,” Smith said.
Smith also considered Western Kentucky and Evansville, but felt most comfortable at the Louisville school.
“Bellarmine just felt like home and that’s where I need to be,” she said.
Smith has achieved great levels of success in the pool and in the classroom in recent years.
She was a high point award winner in the Central Kentucky Swim Conference several times while swimming for Arlington. The senior has posted sectional qualifying times in USA Swimming competition and has set school records at Madison Central — 100 free, 200 free, 200 free relay and 400 free relay.
Last year, she won the regional championship in the 100 free and qualified for the state meet in four events.
Smith is also a Kentucky Governor’s Scholar, a member of the National Honor Society, a class officer, a member of Red House Baptist Church and a volunteer for the Special Olympics and the Relay for Life.
The Central senior has competed in a variety of strokes at both the high school and club levels, but she would like to concentrate on freestyle and butterfly at the college level.
Smith wants to major in Biology and is very interested in getting into genetic research.
“(Coach Cahill) is part of the reason why I want to do cancer research,” Smith said. “I never really knew what I wanted to do, then all this happened, then it was something that I wanted. I want to be able to go into the preventative side of it. I want to dedicate what I do to him.”