North Texas Olympian Katie Uhlaender has made an impression on the world as she competes in the Sochi Winter Games, but much earlier, her competitive spirit stood out to those in her hometown of McGregor.
“You are always surprised to see somebody who wants to barrel down the track at 95 mph head first. But with her, that kind of seems natural for us,” said Tim Seward, who coached Uhlaender in track and is now the athletic director at the McGregor Independent School District.
Uhlaender's competitive spirit was recognized in third grade.
“The one thing I always knew about Katie is she wanted to be an athlete and she wanted to be an athlete at the top of her game,” Seward said.
Uhlaender’s assistant principal described her as friendly, outgoing and determined.
“If you told her she couldn’t do something, she said, "Yes, I can,” said Cheri Zacharias.
Besides track, Uhlaender played on the boys baseball team. She remains the only girl that has ever done that at McGregor ISD. Her athletic director said she was determined.
“She wanted to be just like her dad, that is the way she was always been,” said Seward.
Her father, former major league baseball player Ted Uhlaender, played outfield for eight years. Katie Uhlaender played right field.
She was extremely close with her dad, who died right before the Olympics in Vancouver. But now, she is taking her fierce competitive spirit back to Sochi, with the support of McGregor right behind her.
“Everybody is pretty fired up,” said Zacharias.
On Facebook pages, people are writing about Uhlaender, posting the times she will race. A former neighbor of Uhlaender's is even hosting a watch party for the races Friday morning.
"She is a great girl. She always had so much spunk," Valeria Citrano said.
Kids at McGregor High School, where Uhlaender once ran track, can't wait to see her compete in the skeleton. She is inspiring them, even though they haven’t met her.
“We are such a small-town school. And to see someone on such a national level from my town is really awesome,” said student Hope Lenamon.
Her former track coach will be up bright and early to see her.
“Just really excited about seeing her, and rooting her for the gold medal,” said Seward.
The McGregor Mirror did a cover story on Uhlaender. Now, the town will wait to see if she has a major comeback from Vancouver.
“Just to get to see somebody you know win a medal would be unbelievable,” said Seward.