In her 20s, Katrina Radke found a writing assignment that she completed in third grade at Morris Elementary School. The essay was about what she wanted to be when she grew up.
"It was something like, when I'm 25 complete the sentence and I wrote 'When I'm 25, I will have gone to the Olympics, won many medals in swimming, get a boyfriend, coach for a couple years and get married," Radke said in a phone interview with the Stevens County Times. "I found it in a scrapbook my mom made and I remember thinking 'Wow, I can't believe I wrote this.'"
It all came true... Except she didn't get married at 25.
"Thank goodness," Radke said in reference to not getting married at 25.
Today, Radke and her husband Ross Gerry own WeCoach4U in Excelsior, Minnesota, but her recollection of her competitive swimming days remain strong.
Radke moved from Morris after sixth grade. Her love for swimming was already a passion by that time.
"In sixth grade, I would travel to Minneapolis couple times a month for swim meets and for training. I was begging my parents actually, to let me swim more. So in seventh grade, I stayed with a family in Minneapolis to swim, then, my dad was transferred (from the Morris soils lab) to Pennsylvania."
Radke got her start in the water with the Morris Tiger Shark club program in what is now the Regional Fitness Center pool.
"I loved that pool. Going down and looking through the underwater windows. It was a good place to learn to swim," Radke said.
Radke's success in the pool came early. She made the USA National swim team when she was 14 years old. She made her first Olympic team when she was 17 and participated in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea. She took fifth place in the 200-meter butterfly. But what she remembers most happened outside the pool.
"Get to the (athlete) village and you get to meet people from all over the world... Kind of like your own ideal global village.... Loved meeting people from different cultures and different countries," Radke said.
Radke said the Olympics transcends national borders.
"There's a big connection between all of us when we realize it and pay attention to it. There's lots of things bigger than politics and religion and anything that causes division. It's ways we can all connect, which is one of the most beautiful things about the whole Olympic movement," Radke said.
Radke continued to train after the 1988 Olympics, but got sick. She was eventually diagnosed with CFIDS, which is Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome.
"I was trying to do too many things on top of training really hard... And when I got sick, I kept training rather than taking a big break. I took breaks, but we always kept pushing through," Radke said.
Eventually, she wore out.
"My immune system was just shot. I was forced to stop swimming... bedridden," Radke said.
Yet, Radke said she learned from her illness.
"I'm a firm believer of everything happens for a reason. I got really into the spiritual form of life, meditation, which back then wasn't as mainstream as it is now. I was pretty sick for a good year then my immune system starting bouncing back pretty good," Radke said.
Radke said she was back to "a non-elite athlete normal" within three years of accepting her CFIDS diagnosis. Then she started training again and qualified in the 2004 Olympic trials 12 years after her first Olympic appearance.
"I was mainly there to have fun," Radke said of participating in the 2004 Olympics trials. "It was just fun to be able to swim again (after battling CFIDS)."
Although she only lived in Morris as a child, Radke still vividly recalls the Morris neighborhood where her family lived in her first 13 years of life.
"We had great neighbors," Radke remembered of her Morris youth. "We lived south of the high school, down on north court. Played a lot of games outside in the neighborhood. It was a nice community to grow up in."
She's proud of her roots.
"Definitely my hometown, proud to be from Morris," Radke said.
"About 10 years ago, my two kids and my husband and I, we went and knocked on the door and this nice older lady answered the door and she showed us around the house. The kids got to see my bedroom, which was really cool. The yard and all that kind of stuff. It was really nice," Radke said.
The childhood essay was about her dream. She encourages other kids to dream as well.
"For kids who have dreams, let themselves dream big and let themselves shine their light and be who they're here to be," Radke said. "Enjoy the process of going through the ups and downs that we all experience in life and know it's okay to have them."