Attacking Water with No Fear; Shark Bite Left Scar, but Couldn't keepSchmidt from Ocean - or State Title

By Frazier, Francine | The Florida Times Union, December 25, 2012 | Go to article overview

Attacking Water with No Fear; Shark Bite Left Scar, but Couldn't keepSchmidt from Ocean - or State Title


Frazier, Francine, The Florida Times Union


Byline: Francine Frazier

More than five years later, Kasey Schmidt's right thigh still bears the scar of every surfer's worst nightmare: a shark attack.

Schmidt, a sophomore at Bolles, was 9 when she was bitten by a shark while surfing with her mother near their home off Vilano Beach.

"It was mostly a flesh wound, [but] there was still nerve damage," Schmidt said. "I still can't feel it."

Schmidt, an avid surfer, could have let the traumatic attack keep her out of the ocean for good. The thought certainly crossed her mother's mind.

"I wanted to move. I just wanted to move to Colorado. I was done with the ocean," Brandi Schmidt said. "That happened in our backyard at the bottom of our stairs."

But Kasey - with the help of some encouraging friends - was back in the ocean just two months after the attack.

"I was a little scared at first, but I realized that it's so much more important doing what you love, than letting something that's never going to happen again hinder you from it," said Kasey, the Times-Union All-First Coast girls swimmer of the year.

That fearlessness, which she says she learned from her daredevil mother, serves Kasey well as a competitive swimmer.

Kasey, 15, won the Class 1A state title in the 50-yard freestyle in a time of 23.09 seconds - the fastest time of any girls swimmer in the state. She also set the Bolles school record in that event and competed on all three of Bolles' relay teams.

Earlier this summer, Kasey competed at the Olympic trials at the age of 14.

"I think she's a kid that has no fear. ... That's something that's really hard to teach," Bolles coach Sergio Lopez Miro said. "Kasey is a very gifted swimmer, very talented. She can feel the water and understands the water well."

Lopez said that feel for the water is an instinct Kasey inherited from her surfer mom. Brandi, who is also an avid snowboarder, said she's been taking Kasey on annual surfing trips to Costa Rica since she was 4.

"She didn't start getting in the water with us really surfing on the outside until she was like 12 a because it's big and sort of dangerous," Brandi said. "But now she out-paddles me."

As an only child, Kasey said she's very close to her mother. Because they drive back and forth from their home in St. Augustine to Bolles every day, there's plenty of time to connect. They've been making the trek since Kasey, who has attended Bolles since she was 4, moved from the Ponte Vedra campus to the main Bolles campus on San Jose Boulevard in the sixth grade.

"She's always told me to take risks and do what you love, because someday you can't do it anymore," Kasey said of her mother. "You've got to live life while you can, you know, and be the best that you can be."

For Kasey this year, that meant breaking school records, earning a state title and being named girls swimmer of the year.

Though those were individual accomplishments, Kasey said they wouldn't have happened without her team.

"Probably my best asset, I'd say, is the people I train with," she said.

Brandi said she and her husband, Kevin, were struck by the effort the older girls put in to helping Kasey improve through the years.

"At Bolles, you'd think it would be so cutthroat for a spot, but they're not," Brandi said. "Instead of competing with each other, they really make this effort to make each other better.

"We hope that Kasey will do the same thing for the younger girls," she added. "That she'll help build them up and do for them what Ashley [Neidigh] and Ali [Talwar] and our captains did for Kasey, so that not only can we continue to be great in the pool but outside of the pool, too."

Francine Frazier: (904) 359-4372

GIRLS SWIMMER OF THE YEAR

KASEY SCHMIDT

Sophomore, Bolles

Resume: Class 1A state champion in the 50-yard freestyle. …

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