Moving halfway across the country for college is never easy, and COVID-19 has made normal freshman routines like socializing in the dorms or meeting new people incredibly difficult.
Fortunately for Catie Pentlarge, a freshman on Nebraska’s swimming team and a San Diego, California native, moving over 1,000 miles from home was easier knowing she’d have her sister, Jessica, to guide her.
From a young age, Catie has looked up to her sister both inside and outside of the pool. Swimming runs in the Pentlarge family, as Catie and Jessica’s parents were both competitive swimmers. That swimming background pushed Catie to start the sport for herself, a decision she’s glad she made.
“I definitely could have chosen any other sport to pursue but just from the interest and enjoyment I stuck with swimming,” Catie said.
Catie said that her love of swimming stemmed from the sport itself, but her competitive edge sprung from trying to match her older sister.
“I have always looked up to her in the sport and strive to achieve what she has achieved at the levels that she was able to get to,” Catie said.
The two sisters swam for the same club team, but were separated by different age groups. Once Catie got to Cathedral High School in San Diego, Jessica was a senior and the two were finally able to compete on the same team.
In 2017, Cathedral was in the mix to bring home a California Interscholastic Federation state championship. It was Catie’s first state championship and the final meet of Jessica’s high school career, and the Cathedral relay team, led by the Pentlarge sisters, needed to win the meet’s final relay in order to win the state championship.
They “smashed it,” according to Catie, breaking the meet record in the relay and winning the championship. Both recalled Jessica diving over her sister to begin the relay’s final leg as a special moment.
“I just remember diving over my sister to finish out the race, and once I hit the wall and knew that we won it was just such a special moment for us and the team,” Jessica said.
Jessica then went off to Nebraska, choosing the Huskers over Purdue, Arkansas and Washington State. She said that she was looking to go to a program out of state, and knew right away that Nebraska was where she wanted to be.
“Right away from my visit I knew that Nebraska was the place for me, just the opportunity that student-athletes get, to the whole comradery of the whole state of Nebraska,” Jessica said.
According to Catie, her decision to come to Nebraska was rather easy seeing that she had experienced the school already through her older sister. But Catie said she chose Nebraska because it was the best fit for her and not because of Jessica.
“I wanted to keep my options open and go out of state, and I obviously had ties here because of Jessica ... But once I came on campus, I know that it is going to sound cliche but I just fell in love,” Catie said. “There is just no place else like here and I just absolutely love it.”
Being so far from home can present its challenges, especially being a freshman with limited opportunity to meet new people due to the challenges the coronavirus presents. However, Catie says she’s grateful she has Jessica to lean on.
“I honestly don’t know what I would do without Jessie here, just having a little piece of home here is the best thing I could have asked her,” Catie said.
Catie said she has adapted well to collegiate training, and that she’s been swimming in the lane adjacent to her sister so that the two can push each other to be better. Both sisters said they’re excited to be on the same team again.
Nebraska’s coaching staff is very excited to have both Pentlarge sisters, as assistant coach Pat Rowan noted that the two have a great sibling dynamic. They have also literally embodied what the team preaches, which is the importance of family.
“We are a family, we take care of each other and look out for each other, but the connection that sometimes takes a couple years to make [Jessica and Catie] already have coming in, and we are so glad that we are a part of something as special as their sister bond in Jess’ last year,” Rowan said.
The two have both expressed how being here together during this year has made the transition easier in such a challenging time. Catie said that she is glad that Jess is here for her first year, and Jessica is just as happy to have Catie here for her last year.
“We complement each other and balance each other out, something that I lack she is able to add and something that she lacks I can add,” Jess said. “We are just really able to make eachother better people by how much we balance each other out and push each other.”