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Four Years at the Mount

Goals for the year

Making Waves

Michael Kenney Jr.
MSN Class of 2019

(9/2016) If you told me two years ago that I would set goals for a Division I swimming season, I would have called you crazy. At that point, I had never once considered being on a competitive swim team, and my ambitions were scattered in a variety of other capacities. Interestingly enough, a combination of hard work and happenstance brings me to the following article topic: my journey towards becoming a collegiate swimmer and the goals I have set for this upcoming season.

My interest in swimming began organically from my interests in track and cross country. I had been running competitively for a few years and as I approached the winter of my junior year, I was hungrier than ever to win the Catholic League Championship and make the All-State team. In order set myself up for success, I decided to forgo a shot at varsity basketball and abide by an arduous winter running regiment instead. Shortly after I began my training, however, it became evident that this particular Michigan winter had other plans in store.

The winter of 2013 spawned unforgiving weather conditions. With over two weeks of inclimate weather-related school cancellations, and wind chill temperatures frequently dipping below negative 20 degrees, my winter training was less prolific than I imagined. I took to the treadmill or called for a "recovery day" more often than I would have liked. On the days that I braved the cold, I ran with an inconsistent cadence; I would fluctuate from running fast enough to keep warm but slow enough to skirt upcoming sheets of ice.

The following winter forecasted a similar strife, and by the time my fall cross-country season concluded, I wanted both a physical and mental break from running. I considered going out for a variety of other sports in the winter. I was not drawn to wrestling, I knew I could not pick up hockey, and I was not ready to return to basketball. Swimming, however, intrigued me.

I had always been somewhat envious of our school’s swim team. The guys were close knit and known as some of the most disciplined student-athletes around. I had no idea how they managed both a rigorous college prep course load with taxing two-a-day practices, but I commended them for it. I wanted to know how I would fair in such a setting.

When my friend Alden, a member of my parish youth group and the best swimmer on my high school’s team, heard that I was thinking about swimming he was ecstatic.

"Dude, you’ve got to do it!" He’d tell me over and over again. It did not matter that I had never swum competitively before in my life; to Alden, I had both the physical attributes and work ethic to contribute to the team. Although I had been considering it independently for a couple of weeks, Alden’s enthusiasm and encouragement empowered me to believe that I could excel as a varsity swimmer. "It’ll be tough," he’d say, "but so are you."

I remember my first practice like it was yesterday.

"So you’re a senior?" My coach, a fitness virtuoso with a megaphonic presence, asked with his head slightly cocked to the side. I nodded. "And you’ve never swum competitively before…?" I nodded again, but this time with a bit more conviction. I knew which question he indirectly probed: "Do you know what you’re getting yourself into?"

My only goal that year was to make it through the season. Albeit I wanted to use swimming as a method to cross-train for track in the spring and mitigate senioritis, I was primarily determined to prove to myself that I could toughen out something new and physically taxing; however, I gained much more than I had ever anticipated.

A few weeks into the season, I was named captain for my leadership, work ethic, and seniority. While I was nowhere near the best swimmer on the team, I never let anyone hold a candle to my tenacity. I improved tremendously and made a load of new friends. I gained a passion for swimming and an affinity for trying new experiences. Most importantly, my high school swimming experience set me up for the opportunity I have to swim this upcoming season for Mount St. Mary’s University.

Although I ran for the Mount’s cross-country and track teams year-round last year, I will forgo my cross-country and winter track seasons to swim. I am thrilled for the new opportunity and grateful to both my running and swimming coaches who have encouraged me to pursue my interests.

As I reflect upon my high school career, I know that aiming to "make it through" the season would short circuit all the potential that this season offers. I want to lead as well as learn, work as well as laugh, and swim so as to win. I hope to make new friends and lasting memories. I want to become stronger, faster, and more resilient. All in all, I hope that, in four years, I can reflect upon this year and embrace this season as a capstone of my college career.

Read other articles by Michael Kenney Jr.