Before she could even form coherent thoughts, Katie Belle Sikes seemed to know she was born to be a swimmer before everyone else did.
When she was three years old, Sikes somehow eluded her parents attention and jumped off the diving board at her grandparents swimming pool. With no hesitation, she plopped herself into the deep end while she tried to reach a nearby ladder, where her brother was stationed.
The fact she had not learned how to swim yet didn’t stop her, though it did leave her parents horrified.
Yet before they could jump in the water, Katie Belle popped up from underneath and reached the wall much to everyone’s relief.
It was a harbinger of things to come.
On Wednesday afternoon, hundreds of workouts at the Orange County Sportsplex, dozens of trips with travel teams and high school competitions all led to a ceremony at Orange High School’s Gymnasium. It’s where Sikes formally signed with the Georgia Bulldogs, where she verbally committed last fall.
Georgia, a seven-time NCAA National Champion in women’s swimming, is home to Gabrielsen Natatorium, where Sikes first competed in middle school.
Katie Belle was accompanied in the signing ceremony by her parents Kristin and Thomas Sikes, along with her coaches Rob and Kristie Geib.
“I have so many emotions right now,” Sikes said. “I’m extremely excited. I have so many emotions for so many people. Swimming in Garbielsen Natatorium was very intimidating when I was in eighth grade, but also super exciting to be swimming in a poll where so many national titles had been won.”
Sikes quickly established herself during a freshman year that was anything but typical. In the pandemic year of 2021, she found herself practicing in reduced lanes due to COVID restrictions. She didn’t have one in-person class as a freshman. Sikes won the first of her six regional championships in the 50 yard freestyle at the Greensboro Aquatic Center and finished second in the 3A State Championships behind Olivia Rhodes of Charlotte Catholic.
As a freshman, she was named the Big 8 Conference Female Swimmer of the Year.
In 2022, she became the first female swimmer in Orange High history to win a state championship when she finished 1st with a time of 23.24 seconds.
The 2023 State Championships at the Cary Aquatic Center may have been the greatest singular athletic performance in the history of Orange High School. Sikes won two individual state championships. She set a new state record, regardless of classification, in the 50 yard freestyle at 22.17 seconds. It was the tenth-fastest time ever recorded by a high school athlete nationally, earning her automatic All-American status. She also set the 3A State Record in the 100 yard freestyle at 49.45 seconds, her first state title in the event.
Sikes swam the anchor leg for the 200 yard freestyle team with Riley White, Piper White and Ainsley Rasinske, which became the first relay team to win a state championship in Hillsborough history.
As a junior, she was named the Most Outstanding Female Swimmer of the 3A State Championships.
Of course, Sikes still has a senior year starting later this month. It wouldn’t be a campaign without new goals to aim for to complete a career that’s already firmly entrenched into the Orange High Hall of Fame.
“Last year, our freestyle medley relay was just shy of a state championship,” Sikes said. “I would really like to close out the season bringing both of our relay teams to state championships. I also would like to set another record in the 50 yard freestyle and another record in the 100-yard freestyle.”
Last summer, Sikes was named the HighSchoolOT. com Female Swimmer of the Year. She is a three-time USA Swimming Scholastic All-American. She has a 4.0 grade point average.