“She will always be watching me swim:” Star H.S. swimmer lost aunt to cancer

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CUDAHY (WITI) -- Most student-athletes stick with a sport because they either excel at it or really enjoy it. St. Thomas More senior Kelly Howell swims for both reasons -- but there's a third reason why Howell is sticking with swimming, and that is inspiring others.

"It is hard -- especially because we were really close, but I know she will always be looking down and watching me swim," Howell said.

Howell has been swimming since she was 10, and she has a trip to Nationals on her resume!

However, she doesn't just swim for herself anymore. She competes in honor of her Aunt Judy, who passed away from lung cancer a couple of years ago.

"The people that knew me and knew I lost someone were there supporting me, asking me if I was doing okay. They were always there reassuring me that everything is gonna be okay," Howell said.

Her Aunt Judy's passing inspired Howell to get more involved with the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life.

She's very proud that her school raised a record-breaking $26,000 during the event this year!

Her swim coach, Bob White is very proud of her.

Howell made it to a two-hour swim practice the very next day.

"That's the kind of person she is. Most people would be like, 'I'm up all night. I'm skipping practice.' Probably never even crossed her mind," White said.

"I don't know how I managed to finish it. I feel like the support of my teammates, of my coach helped pull me through," Howell said.

Howell will continue her swim career at the University of South Dakota next year on a scholarship -- and she's already planning on being a big part of Relay for Life in college.

"I definitely want to continue that -- especially if they don't have a Relay for Life there, I'd love to set one up because I know how much of a great impact it can make -- not just in the community but for cancer research and awareness," Howell said.

Coach White isn't surprised by his star swimmer's plans.

"She's a fabulous student. She's involved in some great organizations in school. She's a highly committed and dedicated person to whatever she does," White said.

Howell knows that whatever she does -- she'll have someone watching over her.