Diving into the pool with the big leagues is a dream that most swimmers hope to accomplish but don’t always have the opportunity to do so.
For Keene State College sophomore Kyle Shadeck, that hope of qualifying for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III men’s Swimming and Diving Championship became a reality.
Shadeck, a KSC swimmer who broke 2014 graduate Drew Ledwith’s meet record (1:51.50) and 2016 graduate Cole Hogg’s school record (1:51.41) for the 200 yard butterfly with a time of 1:49.18 this season, continued his success on a larger stage.
After some success that wrapped up his regular season, Shadeck was put on a waitlist for the NCAAs. Soon after, he found out that he qualified and would be traveling to Indianapolis, IN, from March 21-24.
Shadeck, the only athlete on the KSC men’s swim and dive team to go through the NCAA experience, reflected on the opportunity he was presented with.
Shadeck said that the NCAAs were a great experience.
“Being able to compete on the highest stage in Division III athletics was truly a humbling experience and it was incredible to see so many fast swimmers and to be treated as a high level athlete,” Shadeck said.
Competing on that high of a level drew out many positive lessons and skills that Shadeck said he was glad he was able to experience.
“Some of the positive things that I took away from this trip was learning how to deal with the pressures that come at high-level competition meets such as this so that I will be more prepared for my next few years of collegiate swimming,” Shadeck said.
However, there were still some adversities before and during the championship that Shadeck had to overcome.
Being the only one to represent KSC at a national level was both strange and cool, Shadeck said.
“On one hand, it was kind of a cool feeling to know that I would be the sole representative of the team at that meet, but on the other hand it was weird being the only one at practice leading up to the meet. I have always gone to meets with other teammates, so to be on my own like that was definitely different for me,” Shadeck said.
Athletes have many different dynamics and environments that they need to adapt to and Shadeck said that by focusing on the meet, the new factors became less strange.
Shadeck faced other problems during his training, such as having to be on campus during spring break.
One of the biggest challenges Shadeck faced was having to be on campus to train. “Due to the campus being closed, including the dining commons, maintaining a regular and nutritious eating schedule was not easy,” Shadeck said.
The transition into the meet brought forth another challenge: not having his teammates there.
“Usually before my races I like to chat and laugh with my teammates to help me relax, so not having them there forced me to try different things to get me to relax,” Shadeck said.
Even though his teammates couldn’t be with him, they still supported him throughout the entire process.
“Before I left a few of them put together a psych box filled with some of my favorite snacks and some notes of encouragement which I appreciated greatly. They also tuned in to the live stream of the meet when I was swimming so they could watch me from home and that meant a lot to me,” the sophomore said.
Fellow teammate and first-year Patrick Doyle said that Shadeck was very fortunate and worked very hard all season to make it to the NCAAs.
Doyle added that having strong teammates like Shadeck really helps during practice and at meets.
“When you’re at practice and you’re getting tired, wanting to give up, your teammates are the ones to push your through,” Doyle said.
The team tried to be even more supportive of Shadeck, knowing the struggles he would have to face during his training sessions and in the overall meet.
“We all were supportive of his training and how he had to stay here over spring break to train. We continued to just give him support throughout the competition,” Doyle said.
Doyle said that Shadeck remains a go-to teammate, someone you can go to when you need to talk, need advice, or just want to chat with a friend.
No other members of the men’s swim and dive team commented.
Shadeck has faced injuries, setbacks, success and never-ending lessons that will transfer over into his next two seasons.
However, despite it all, Shadeck said that it has taught him a valuable lesson.
“The most important thing I learned from this season is to never give up. As athletes, we are always going to face obstacles, but if we stay focused and work hard enough, we can overcome them and do great things,” the sophomore said.
Shadeck hopes to become an All-American next season.
“Not many people in this school’s history can say they’ve done that, so to be able to finish among the top eight finishers in an event and receive those accolades would mean the world to me,” Shadeck said.
Caroline Perry can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org