Making waves in open water

SWIMMING: Hancock’s Kylie Mitchell will take her talents to Israel in August

  • Kylie Mitchell, 16, of Hancock, pictured here at Norway Pond, will represent the U.S. next month at the Junior Open Water World Championships in Eliat, Israel.
  • Kylie Mitchell, 16, of Hancock, pictured here at Norway Pond, will represent the U.S. next month at the Junior Open Water World Championships in Eliat, Israel.
  • Mitchell at the 2014 Open Water National Championships at Castiac Lake, Calif., where she swam the 5k in 1:00.36.

Hancock resident Kylie Mitchell began swimming competitively at the age of 5 for the Peterborough Wave swim club at Adams Playground. Next month, Mitchell will travel to Eilat, Israel, to represent the United States at the 2014 Federation Internationale De Natation World Junior Open Water Swimming Championships.

Mitchell, 16, attends ConVal High School and trains with the Greenwood Swimming Club out of Keene. On June 13, Mitchell competed in the 2014 Open Water National Championships at Castiac Lake, Calif., finishing 12th in the 5K event with a time of 1:00.36. The finish earned her a spot on the U.S. World Open Water Junior Team.

“In California, she raced 60 swimmers in the 5K, with the top two 15- and 16-year-olds earning a trip to Israel,” explained Jack Fabian, a national development coach for the Greenwood Swimming Club who has been coaching Mitchell since she was 10. “She was able to earn a spot to travel to Israel on Aug. 28.”

At the World Swimming Championships, Mitchell will swim in the 5K Open Water event. Open water swimming is competitive swimming that takes place in outdoor bodies of water, such as open oceans or lakes, with distances between one and 80 kilometers.

This will be Mitchell’s first time representing the U.S. as a member of the Junior National Team, an achievement that does not surprise her coach.

“Kylie was an outstanding age group swimmer. She had good training habits. I’m really proud of her, she deserves some recognition for representing our country at an international event,” said Fabian.

Mitchell, who swam her first open water race at age 11, opened up about a typical day in her life as she prepares for her trip to Israel.

“Six days a week I wake up at 4:45 a.m. and drive to the Keene State facilities,” Mitchell said. “I swim two hours and then have an hour of dry-land training, consisting of different strength exercises. After that, I drive back to Hancock, eat, and take a nap. Then I go with my coach to Dublin Lake for two hours of swimming in the afternoon. After that, it’s dinner and bed.”

“Swimming takes up a lot of time, but I don’t mind. I like being in the water and being competitive.”

Any athlete that puts in as much training time as Mitchell needs a strong supporting cast; this is where Kylie’s parents, Jim and Jacqueline Mitchell, come in.

“It’s been a long road to this. We have been doing early mornings and long days for many years. The sport requires a lot of driving and lots of commitment,” said Jacqueline, who up until last February drove Kylie to practice in the early mornings, before Kylie got her driver’s license.

“Kylie got up and made tea at 4 a.m. She would also start the car, so that we were on time to the pool,” recalled Jacqueline.

“It’s pretty amazing to watch [Kylie’s] progression. It takes a different kind of athlete to do open water swimming. We don’t have to wake Kylie up at 4, she does it all on her own,” added Jim.

As for why Mitchell chooses to focus on the open water events, she said she enjoys the challenge.

“[Open water] is tough to train for. I like being the one person that wants to take on the challenge of swimming. I always want to get better and work hard. I have a lot of endurance and can swim for a long time. Usually, I still have energy left at the end [of races].”

Some of the unique aspects of open water swimming are the weather factors, such as waves, current and rain, that are not present when swimming in a pool.

“Open water [swimming] is more interesting. It’s harder because it’s longer and there are a lot of things that could happen and change everything,” said Mitchell.

Mitchell and her coach are hoping for a strong showing in Israel.

“Top 10 is the goal,” said Fabian. “We want to be in the mix for a podium finish. The lead pack in a race of 60 like this is usually 10 people. These athletes will be swimmers from all around the world, and will all be in [Kylie’s] age category.”

Making the national junior team and earning her trip to Israel is Mitchell’s proudest accomplishment thus far in her swimming career. Although she will be representing the U.S., Mitchell said she isn’t letting that pressure get to her.

“I’m not nervous about the race. I’m excited and want to do even better. I’m excited to represent the U.S.A. It would be nice to medal. I’m just going to try my hardest. It’ll be great just to be there,” said Mitchell.

Unlike most high school students who either work or relax during the summer months before school begins again, Mitchell maintains a strenuous training regimen. When she’s not focused on her swimming, Mitchell enjoys being outside.

“I like to bike ride, go kayaking, and I ski all winter. I’m also a big fan of New England sports teams.”

Dylan Fisher can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235, or dfisher@ledgertranscript.com.

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