YORK, PA – York College sophomore swimmer Kyle Walthall (Port Hueneme, Calif./Rio Mesa) will make history on Friday at the NCAA Division III National Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana. Walthall will be the first York College swimmer to compete in the Division III national championship meet in school history.
Walthall will compete in the 100 breaststroke on Friday and the 200 breaststroke on Saturday. He is the Capital Athletic Conference champion in both events as he earned the CAC Co-Swimmer of the Year.
Walthall's performance has been impressive during his sophomore year but to truly understand the scope of his success, one must understand where he was early on during his freshman year at York.
Walthall came to York from California and was a typical freshman. Walthall opened the season as a highly heralded first year swimmer and he didn't disappoint early. He set a pair of breaststroke school records in his first collegiate meet and earned the CAC Swimmer of the Week.
After an initial splash, Walthall broke a team rule that resulted in him being suspended for the remainder of the semester, setting him back significantly in training but also teaching the freshman a valuable lesson.
"My little hiatus from swimming really helped me focus on swimming and, more importantly, my academics. It was a huge wake up call to get straightened up and to get my priorities in order. Since then, I have made Dean's List and doing really well in the classroom. Not making NCAA's last year has really motivated me to achieve more this year."
While Walthall had to battle back into swimming shape, he was determined to work and become a factor for the Green and White at the CAC Championships. Not only was he a factor, he earned the CAC Rookie-of-the-Year award after winning the 100 breaststroke and finishing second in the 200. However, his conference record-breaking time of 57.27 would not be enough to earn him an NCAA Championships berth.
Fast forward to the fall of 2013 season. Walthall made the commitment to being more of a leader for the Green and White. That was not something lost on Spartan head coach Erin Kurtz.
"Kyle's attitude, leadership and determination is just at a completely different level this season," said Kurtz. "He has maintained such focus, knowing that the goal was an NCAA bid and that truly paid off and I even think exceed both our expectations of the 2013-14 season. Going 55:80 was just phenomenal! He's just the type of athlete that takes in criticism and critic and puts it to good use."
Walthall felt more of a responsibility to help lead the team. That was something that he also felt help him be a better swimmer this season.
"The one big difference between this year and last year is our team in general. Last year we were not as organized as a team and we didn't bond like we have this year. This year, we made a point to get to know all of the incoming freshman and to just get to know them better. That helped us build a better team and that has really helped in individually. That bond helped me focus and become a better swimmer."
Walthall was fantastic all year for the Spartans as he was a finely tuned machine from the beginning of the year. He earned the CAC Swimmer of the Week twice, nabbing the award on November 19 and January 23. He broke records along the way as he positioned himself to collect the big prize, an NCAA Championship invitation.
The Spartans made their first-ever training trip over winter break and Walthall felt that really energized the team for the second half of the season.
"The training trip was intense," said the Spartan sophomore. "We would do two workouts a day and would squeeze in some runs around the practices. It was physically draining but not mentally draining like it was last year when we were back in York for the entire break. When we were here last year, we were cooped up inside and it was monotonous. Just getting outside was such a huge change, a change for the good. It really made a close team even closer."
When the Green and White returned to York, they closed the season with strong performances leading up to the conference championships.
Walthall began his championships by being a part the record-setting 400 medley relay team on Friday evening. His big night came Saturday as he blistered the field in the 100 breaststroke, recording a time of 55.80 which broke the conference record by over a second and allowed him to win the race by over four seconds. That time would go on to rank him 11th in the nation after the championships. Walthall was also a member of the 800 freestyle relay team, which broke a school record.
Sunday brought another individual championship and another conference record as he won the 200 breaststroke in a time of 2:02.50.
He is the second Spartan to earn the men's Swimmer-of-the-Year Award, following in the footsteps of former standout Steven Fulcher, who earned the honor at the 2008 championships.
Walthall is looking forward to the experience and doesn't have any expectations in his first national championship opportunity.
"I want to just go swim. This year is an experiment. I had bronchitis the week after CAC's, which threw off my training but we are right back up and I feel pretty prepared. I would love to final but just going is going to be a pretty awesome experience. I am just really happy to be a part of it."
Kurtz is thrilled to have Walthall earn the honor. However, she is also excited for what he has meant to the program, in and out of the pool.
"Having an athlete make the NCAA Meet is such a huge accomplishment for the program and for recruiting! This is such a big sport and knowing he's ranked 11th in the country really gives our recruiting that jumpstart. I love showing students who are looking at YCP that we've got three guys under 101 in the breaststroke, a CAC & Meet Recorder holder and an NCAA competitor on the squad. Kyle's ability not only assists our program his attitude and pride in this school is huge. I always have great confidence that I can send him out with our prospective student athletes and he just has nothing but great things to say about campus, our program and the academics here at York."
Walthall is also thankful for Kurtz's guidance.
"In the pool, she has given me a much bigger view of what I am capable of doing. I never would have thought about swimming freestyle but she convinced me to swim the 500 and that was really good for me. Outside the pool, she has been pushing me to make sure I am doing well in classes and just helping me to reach my full potential."
Walthall begins his NCAA voyage on Friday in the morning session when he will compete in the 100 breaststroke preliminaries. The 100 finals will be held at 6:00 pm on Friday evening. He will then compete in the 200 breaststroke preliminaries on Saturday morning with the finals of the event being contested on Saturday evening.
Please check back with www.ycpspartans.com to follow Walthall's journey during the championship meet.