Chesterton Tribune

Kyle Whitaker completes stellar swimming career with Indiana Mental Attitude Award

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Mental Attitude Award: Chesterton’s Kyle Whitaker was named the IHSAA Mental Attitude Award winner on Saturday at the IHSAA State Finals in Indianapolis. Pictured are (l to r) CHS Athletic Director Garry Nallenweg, CHS Principal Jim Goetz, CHS Swim Coach Kevin Kinel, Kyle Whitaker, Lisa Whitaker and Steve Whitaker. (Tribune photo 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 winner.

“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 is incredible.

“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 happen.”

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.”




Posted 3/1/2010