After swimming with the Puyallup High School girls swim team, Kacey Kiuchi now understands what it’s like to be a part of a family.
Where many swimmers are still trying to figure out what will help them get faster in the pool, Kiuchi, a junior, has already come to that understanding. For Kiuchi, her swim world is a better place when she’s with her friends.
“I wouldn’t want to swim with anyone else,” she said.
At the Class 4A West Central District 3 swim meet at Curtis High over the weekend, Kiuchi clocked the fastest times in the 200-yard freestyle (1 minute, 55.59 seconds) and the 100 backstroke (57.68). Her time in the backstroke was not only a state meet-level time, but it broke a school record that had stood for 17 years.
Kiuchi had a choice to make a few years ago: continue with a strict club swimming route or join the high school team.
Each feature a stark contrast in environment; club swim is strictly and solely about the results swimmers clock each race, while the Vikings have nurtured a family-type atmosphere over the years.
I don’t think there’s another team that genuinely cares for each other like we do here. We are all motivated to help each other get better and faster each week.
“I don’t think there’s another team that genuinely cares for each other like we do here,” Kiuchi said. “We are all motivated to help each other get better and faster each week.”
It was a very different environment for Kiuchi coming into the high school swim team. Her sister, Amy, could only describe small details of what it was like, but the one constant was that the Vikings were different than any other experience.
“It’s very different here, because it’s so much like a family,” Kiuchi said. “Here, everyone is always cheering you on during every race because we all care for each other.”
It’s a stark contrast from her club swim team — Valley Aquatics — where Kiuchi would often wait by herself, alone with her thoughts between the long waits of each race.
All she has to think about is how she can get an edge, be it from her opening dive to her kick off the wall in her on her returns — it’s all she can ever do while at club practices or meets.
“There’s a lot of girls, and everyone races in each event,” Kiuchi said. “Sometimes it can be 10 minutes between each race. That’s very different than high school, which is more fast-paced.”
High school swim may not allow time for rest, Kiuchi added, but it has built her into a better swimmer nonetheless.
“Even though you’re tired, you have friends that push you to be better,” she said.
Perhaps freshman Jenna Fitzsimmons has the best understanding about the differences between club and high school swim.
It’s always funny watching the club kids first come in. They’re like deer in headlights with expressions of, ‘So it’s okay to have fun?’
Puyallup co-coach Casi Messineo
Coming into the season, Fitzsimmons had only known what club life was like after swimming for King Aquatic Club.
“It was kind of surprising coming in at first, seeing how relaxed of an environment (Puyallup) was,” Fitzsimmons said.
Fitzsimmons hasn’t been the only club swimmer to come into Puyallup’s pool only to be surprised by the sheer friendliness of the environment, as well as the drive each girl has to get herself and her teammates into the postseason.
“It’s always funny watching the club kids first come in. They’re like deer in headlights with expressions of, ‘So it’s okay to have fun?’” Puyallup co-coach Casi Messineo said with a laugh. “Once they loosen up, they understand. ... Kacey’s best time is from high school swim. Jenna’s best time is here with us.”
Sometimes, that inner motivation many swimmers have can come from outside one’s self. Sometimes it’s those that cheer us on that pushes a swimmer into another gear.
Kiuchi never really understood what her sister meant all those years when she was talking about why Puyallup was different. All she could do was give her own experience of how this one pool brought so many girls together — like a family.
“I didn’t really understand what she meant until I got here,” Kiuchi said. “In fact, it’s better than what she described. I wouldn’t want to be swimming with anyone else.”