Is this week’s NWIndiana Life In The Spotlight a potential 2016 Olympic medal contender?
Inspired by his teammates, family, and the support of the swimming community that surrounds him, it drives him to give his all, both at practices and meets and motivates him to always do his best.
“In reflection, now that I have completed my collegiate career, I have a better understanding of how important this inspiration was during my age group, high school, and college career, and how it impacted me to always want to get better” said Kyle Whitaker of Chesterton.
At the age of 5, a mixture of curiosity and the weariness of sitting in the stands at his sisters’ swim practices, Kyle decided to try it out himself. Early on, he decided that this was the sport for him.
“I just fell in love with it, and the rest is history,“ he said. And history would prove him right!
He began swimming competitively with the Duneland Swim Club at the age of 6. His mom, Lisa, shared that they enrolled him in swimming at such an early age to help expend some of the endless energy he possessed. This “endless energy” along with his countless hours of hard work, dedication, drive, focus, and sacrifice, would prove to serve this incredible, yet humble, athlete very well over the course of the next 19 years.
Kyle’s first mark of success came in 2002 with both Indiana Age Group and state meet records in the 50 yard and 100-yard Butterfly, and this was only the beginning! During his age group swimming career, he amassed an incredible 27 state records, with 12 of them still unbroken.
Then comes high school. A stand out at Chesterton High School he held a combined total 19 school and pool records, 4 state records (2 of which have since been broken by his brothers), and a national record. Along with tying Carmel’s Jason Lancaster (1991-1994) for most career championships (12), he holds the Indiana records for most championships won as a freshman (3), Most Individual Freshman Championships (3), was awarded the 2009-2010 Herman F. Keller Mental Attitude Award, 3 time Indiana Swimmer of the Year, and the 2010 Indiana Athlete of the Year. He was a part of 2 State Team titles in 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 and inducted into the Indiana High School Swimming Hall of Fame.
His collegiate career at the University of Michigan saw him a contributing member of 4 Big Ten Championship Team titles, 9 Big Ten Championship titles, 2010 Big 10 Freshman Swimmer of the Year, and was named to Michigan's All-Big Ten First Team Selections all 4 years, and was a member of the winning NCAA Championship Team in 2012-2013. His individual school record in the 200 Individual Medley and pool records in the 200 and 400 Individual Medley with the Wolverines still remain intact. Along with this impressive swimming resume, Kyle graduated in 2015 with a degree in History and plans to complete a graduate program in this field of study.
Kyle has swum in 2 Olympic Trials (2008 & 2012) and has qualified, and currently training for his 3rd in 2016. Most recently, as a member of Team USA, he competed in the World University Games in South Korea and was a member of the 800 Freestyle Relay gold medal team. Only the two fastest college athletes in the US in each individual event qualify for the team.
“It was an awesome experience to represent the United States,” he said. “Although swimming is typically seen as an individual sport, there’s a really strong team presence that most people overlook.”
It’s in the genes. Born into a swimming family, his parents Steve and Lisa, and sister, Talor, were collegiate swimmers, and to whom he credits his initial interest in swimming. His brothers Ethan and Aaron are currently competing collegiately at the US Naval Academy and the University of Michigan respectively.
During his collegiate swimming career, although academics, training, and competition dominated the majority of his time, he still somehow found time for community service. He spent time visiting patients in the pediatric unit of hospitals, volunteered at community events and the restoration project of the Yankee Air Museum, and held swim clinics and camps. He also worked with a program called, Tweak, that trained athletes ranging from age group to triathletes.
Outside the pool, Kyle has a passion for military history, specifically WWII, and shared his love of collecting memorabilia from this era which he stores in his room at home. His family affectionately describes his room as, the “museum.” It’s not difficult to understand his passion for this given both his maternal and fraternal grandfathers are Navy veterans.
His advice to current age group, high school, and college swimmers is to work hard, have fun, and always challenge yourself. Listen to your coaches, and always be conscious of what you’re doing during practices and meets.
“I wouldn’t be where I’m at without the support and sacrifices of my family, friends, coaches, and the community. It makes swimming much more enjoyable and motivating to have the support, and I’m very thankful to have that.”
Rest assured Kyle, that your family, friends, and community will continue to support you as you represent us at the Olympic Trials, and beyond. Thank you for the positive light that you reflect on your community. You make us proud!