My Perfect Balance
Kitching, Vaisse Discuss Friendship, Winter Nationals
2017 AT&T Winter Nationals Psych Sheet
DENTON - Once rivals in France and now best friends and college teammates at North Texas, an unusual friendship exists between Mean Green swimming seniors Sarah Vaisse and Claudia Kitching.
“Claudia is my perfect balance,” Vaisse said.
Since they were 12, Vaisse and Kitching have faced off in breaststroke events. At a French national meet in the fall of 2014, Vaisse, who had already been at North Texas for a semester, approached Kitching about her excitement to become teammates.
“I had no idea what she was talking about, because I just knew I was going to the U.S. at that point,” Kitching said.
Little did Kitching know what kind of relationship would develop over the next three years with someone who had been a rival throughout their adolescent years. Now, the two are roommates and best friends, and hug each other before every race.
“We live together and do things together out of the pool,” Vaisse said. “We really connect on a different level.”
The duo takes their great friendship to Columbus, Ohio, to participate in the 2017 AT&T Winter Nationals from Nov. 29- Dec. 2. Kitching will race in the 100-yard and 200-yard breaststroke, and Vaisse will compete in the 100-yard breaststroke and 200-yard individual medley.
“It’s awesome to get to represent our school on a higher level,” Vaisse said. “It means a lot, because obviously not everyone gets to go.”
They will be among the best-of-the-best in the country, including Olympic swimmers and schools outside of C-USA and the region. With that kind of exposure, Vaisse and Kitching hope to take away a thing or two.
“It’s good to have that competition against other teams, besides the ones we face at conference or some of the fall events,” Kitching said.
“There are Olympians there, so it’s really cool to see how they approach their race and study their race strategy and technique,” Vaisse said. “Maybe we can pick up a thing or two from people like that and implement it into our own race.”
Vaisse and Kitching were two of four Mean Green swimmers who went to last year’s Winter Nationals, and they will lean on that experience in their second go-round.
"The experience is huge,” North Texas head coach Brittany Roth said. “You find that a lot at NCAAs, that girls who go for the first time usually don't swim that great because they're overwhelmed. When they get back a second time, they're able to handle the situation a lot better.”
“We used to race in the same conditions back home in France, so we find the same kind of system and know what to expect,” Vaisse said. “I go with no pressure. I don’t expect anything and I’m just going to do what I do.”
The event caps off the fall portion of the season and serves as an important checkpoint as the team prepares for the 2017 Conference USA Championships in February.
“It gives us one more opportunity to race and to see what our weaknesses are, so we can make those changes going into conference,” Vaisse said.
North Texas is coming off a second-place finish at the Kansas Classic, and Vaisse earned a spot on the All-Invite team after a win in the 100-yard breaststroke and a second-place finish in the 200-yard IM. Kitching added a victory in the 200-yard breaststroke.
“It reassured me a little bit to know that even if I didn’t perform at my best, I was still two seconds from my best time in the 100-breaststroke,” Vaisse said. “I know now what points I have to improve in order to be faster, so I can focus on those to achieve better times.”
“Kansas helped us know where we are all at in this stage of the season,” Kitching said. “I was pleased with my meet and it’s good to know we’re near our times at this point in the year.”
It’s been a long journey for them since competing at junior national events in their home country, but the friendship has fueled both as they create a lasting legacy in the program.
“It’s been nice to have her on my journey from France to here,” Kitching said. “She reminds me a little bit of home and we connect on a cultural level.”
“In the situation those girls are in, it can be very easy to have a rivalry and not like the person outside the water,” Roth said.
While Vaisse jokes that the two are still rivals, they can be seen cheering each other on and celebrating each other’s successes. The two embody the team-first mentality that Roth desires.
“With the way that our program is setup, it's us versus the rest of the world,” Roth said. “It can be a slippery slope with competitive people, but they shut that off and know they're better because they're together. They've taken that selfishness away and channel it toward things that require better energy.”