By TR HARLAN
Simply put – the best!
Saturday afternoon approximately 5,300 people in attendance at the IU
Natatorium on the campus of IUPUI in Indianapolis saw the conclusion of,
arguably, the most storied career in IHSAA history.
Chesterton senior Kyle Whitaker concluded his fairy tale high school
swimming career with three more state titles, two individual and one relay.
His eight individual titles is more than anyone ever, surpassing Carmel’s
Jason Lancaster who won seven between 1991-94.
The 12 overall titles (individual and relay) ties Lancaster’s mark.
“It’s never been done, so that tells you right there how difficult it is,”
Chesterton coach Kevin Kinel said. “He’s a special kid and I have to believe
the best athlete to ever walk these hallways (at CHS).”
As if Whitaker’s prowess in the pool wasn’t enough, those that know him are
aware that he may be an even better person outside of the pool. The IHSAA
recognized this as they named him the Herman F. Keller Mental Attitude Award
“I’m really honored,” Whitaker said. “It’s icing on the cake. It not only
shows that I can do pretty well in the pool, but in school and as a leader
on the team and in the community. That’s just how I was raised.”
“It’s quite a feather in his cap to win the Mental Attitude Award,” CHS
Athletic Director Garry Nallenweg said. “It’s nice that other people
throughout the State recognize what we at Chesterton already knew, just how
special a young man he is.”
Whitaker’s resume in the pool included four consecutive State titles in the
200 IM in which he has set the National Record (1:44.55) during the State
Finals each of the past two years.
After winning three consecutive titles in the 100 Fly, this year he set the
State Record in the 500 Free (4:19.79) on back-to-back swims.
“In 73 years, nobody’s ever done it,” IHSAA Asst. Commissioner Sandy Searcy
said. “With two national records and multiple state records, it’s something
that’s never been done before. It’s important to the swimming community and
they recognize what he’s done.
“That’s a very knowledgeable group and he’s someone that everyone in Indiana
can be very proud of.”
And that appears to be a fact that hasn’t been lost on Whitaker.
“I try to understand what people think I’ve meant to swimming,” Whitaker
said. “I want to pay back Indiana, my club team, my high school team and
everybody else for all the things they’ve done for me. Swimming is on the
rise in Indiana and it’s becoming a big sport. There are a lot of younger
kids coming up that’ll keep carrying the torch and swimming fast.
“Now that I’m getting out of the way, I look forward to coming back and
watching how much faster they can get.”
“He’s so far ahead of his age in terms of maturity that you have to tip your
hat to him,” Kinel said. “Kyle’s so mentally tough and just knows when its
time to turn it on. But, he jokes around and kids around a lot and I think
that’s his way of dealing with the pressure. Let’s face it, he’s got tons of
pressure on him all the time.
“Everybody is always watching him.”
And that’s evidenced by the two thank you notes sitting on Nallenweg’s desk.
“I got two notes this week from young kids that just wanted to say thank you
to Kyle for spending time with them and saying hi,” Nallenweg said. “There
is no doubt in my mind that Kyle Whitaker is the most celebrated athlete to
ever compete for Chesterton High School. The best thing about Kyle is that
not only is he a great swimmer, but he’s an even better young man.”
“He’s so good with little kids,” Kinel said. “He always take the time to
sign for them and talk with them for a little while. You just don’t see that
from high school aged kids that much.”
Whitaker, as always, was quick to deflect the attention.
“I’m really going to miss the coaches, my teammates and the parents,”
Whitaker said. “My Mom and Dad (Lisa and Steve) have been to every meet as
far back as I can remember. They are really wonderful and I love them to
death. They are so supportive and the community was as well. You could hear
the Trojan cheers from up there and to have that support and fire behind us
“I started swimming with Coach Kinel when I was about 13 and he’s one of the
best coaches I’ve ever had. There’s no way I’d be where I am without him.
He’s taught me a lot of things in and out of the pool about how to handle
situations. I’ll miss him, but we still have the summer season to see what
we can do.”
“He’s so level-headed, with an unbelievable family that is supportive in all
the right ways of everything their child, his coaches and his teammates do,”
Nallenweg said. “He’s what you want a role model to be.”
And now that his career as a Trojan is over, it’s off to the University of
Michigan to continue his pursuit of future goals.
“It’s been a pretty good high school career,” Whitaker said. “My goal is the
Olympics. I want to stand on that podium. That’s been my main goal for years
now. I’ve swam next to Michael Phelps and those type of guys. I know I can
do that and what it’ll take.”
“I think the Olympics is the ceiling for him,” Kinel said. “If he gets into
the right program, and I think Michigan is that, a lot of good stuff can
And even though the sounds Whitaker hears in the future may be chants of
Michigan or USA, he’ll always be a Trojan to us.
“Chesterton has been great to me,” Whitaker said. “I’d like to pay it back
anyway I can. I hope I made a big impact. I’m really pleased with the way
things turned out.”