Chesterton Tribune

Kyle Whitaker wins five golds at Jr Nationals

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By TR HARLAN

He just seems to keep getting better.

And when you are the talk of the pool every time you get in the water and already own national records, why?

For Chesterton senior Kyle Whitaker, it’s the inability to be satisfied with his performances.

“This was my fourth Junior Nationals and coming off the World Championship Trails, this was the meet I was focused on,” Whitaker said. “I though I had a shot to win a few events.”

In Federal Way, Washington, two weeks ago, Whitaker won all five events he swam in and set national records in each.

“Kyle won one event last year in the 200 Fly and broke the meet record,” Chesterton Swim Coach Kevin Kinel said. “He did real well, but came up a little short in a couple other events. This year, he really made it a goal. It shows you how far he’s come mentally.

“The week prior to going out there, he was so focused that you knew good things were going to happen.”

And it didn’t take him long to establish himself. On opening night, Whitaker broke his own meet record in winning the 200 Fly in 1:56.95. Evan Virtue of California Capitol finished second in 2:01.09.

“His 200 Fly the first day was so easy and smooth and he tore the place apart,” Kinel said. “You knew that he was going to have a great week.”

“I didn’t realize I was going that fast,” Whitaker said. “It felt really good and easy. When I looked at the board, I was like ‘wow’. Sometimes you get a gut sense that there are people close to you. I snuck a peak off the last turn and kind of knew where I was.”

The performance also guaranteed Whitaker a spot on the national team that will depart for the World Cup Games in Germany and Sweden in November.

“This was one of the three national meets over the summer time,” Whitaker said. “It’s a qualifier for the national team and as I start getting more and more competitive at this level, these are the meets that I have to do well in.”

“He wanted to make the national team and to do that you have to be one of the six fastest in the three national meets and he did that day one,” Kinel said. “Then it was, let’s try to win five.”

Whitaker took his second title on the second night of the meet with another meet record of 4:17.59 in winning the 400 IM. Matthew Houser of Greenville (SC) Swim Club finished second in 4:22.35.

“I had goal times going in, but to drop that much time (3 seconds in the Fly and 8 seconds in the IM) in just a couple of months was really nice,” Whitaker said. “In the first two events, it got me thinking that I was really on it. They were both great swims.”

The third victory Whitaker had to share with Neil O’Halloran of Tualatin Hills in the 100 Fly. They both beat the meet record with a time of 53.31.

“He was seeded fourth going into the 100 Fly and on the long course, that hasn’t been a good event for him in the past,” Kinel said. “I think he was actually a little upset because he just tied the record. For me, I thought, ‘good. Now we have something to focus on’.”

And that may well be Whitaker’s biggest strength.

“I think one of the reasons he keeps getting better is because he’s always looking for another challenge,” Kinel said. “I don’t think there is a ceiling for him. He’s just so mentally tough.”

On Day Four, Whitaker kept things going with a fourth meet record. This time he won the 200 Free in 1:49.87. Steven Hill of QDD was second in 1:50.02.

“He was seeded fifth in the 200 Free, but after the morning swim, we knew he had a chance,” Kinel said. “He paced it just perfectly. He didn’t overswim the front end of it and took his time. At the 150, he was fourth. He used the last 50 to just pass everyone.

“He’s been touched out at Junior Nationals before by going out too fast. He’s learned. You hold back and then go after it at the end.”

His final showcase was the 200 IM where he set a record of 2:00.07. Houser finished second in 2:02.94.

“The 200 IM was nice,” Kinel said. “Kyle wanted to break two minutes and didn’t. He didn’t swim the perfect meet and I think that’s good. He continues to have something to strive for.”

And what does he strive for next? It could be a dual someday with Michael Phelps or Ryan Lochte? It could be finally making a college choice?

“There were college coaches all over the place,” Whitaker said of having some nerves. “I have to get used to it. I won’t be swimming in club meets and dual meets the rest of my life. It’s fun swimming fast and against the best people in the country.

“At the World Championships, there was Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. They’re the best of the best. You have to learn how to cope with that and swim the same race you’ve swum your whole life. You just have to do it faster.”

Even before that, Whitaker is excited about the upcoming Indiana High School season as the Trojans try to defend their back-to-back State Titles. Whitaker will also be looking for his fourth consecutive individual title in the 100 Fly and 200 IM.

“I’d like to swim both my events again, and hopefully, win them for a fourth time,” Whitaker said. “The high school season is great because you are with the team. It’s not about me, it’s about sharing the excitement and keeping everybody involved. One person has a good swim and everybody gets excited and swims fast.

“It’s fun. I love being part of that.”

Whitaker wasn’t the only Trojan swimmer to make the trip to Washington. Junior Tyler Fozkos and sophomore Olivia Kabacinski also participated.

“It was terrific to have Tyler and Olivia out there with Kyle,” Kinel said. “They didn’t have the same purpose because they tapered for Senior State a couple weeks earlier.”

Fozkos swam right on his best times, while Kabacinski swam multiple events ranging from 50 meters to 400 meters.

“Both of them were right on their times,” Kinel said. “To me, that’s big success. Especially getting the national exposure and experience.”

 

Posted 8/27/2009