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Knights Kirk flies at state
FEDERAL WAY Dana Kirk should have painted a big, fat bullseye on her chest when she stepped up on the starting block.
This one-person swim team from Bremerton High was the center of attention at the King County Aquatic Center, site of the Nov. 10 state 4A swimming and diving championships.
If Kirk felt any pressure while trying to live up to everyones expectations, she didnt show it.
The personable Bremerton senior held off three-time defending champion Erica Chandler of Snohomish to win the 200-yard freestyle, then came back to smash the state record in her specialty, the 100-yard butterfly.
The confident 18-year-old student body president wasnt seeking special attention, but this was clearly a special meet for the highly-recruited swimmer who won a silver medal at the Goodwill Games in Australia last summer.
For my whole life, swimming has always been for myself, Kirk said. Now I can do it and represent my school and Id never been able to do that before.
It was no surprise when Kirk was named the Washington Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Associations Class 4A Swimmer of the Year. The WISCA, since 1996, has used complicated power points tables to determine the winner. Kirks 317 is the largest power-point total for a state high school swimmer boy or girl.
Kirk powered to victory in the 100 fly in 53.99 seconds, breaking her own record of 54.44 that she set the day before during prelims. That was a day after Rebecca Sturdy of Anacortes had lowered the record to 55.30 during the 2A/3A prelims. The previous state record (56.90) was set in 1993 by Sammamishs Maureen Phillips.
Phillips, who went on to a successful collegiate swimming career at Arizona, presented Kirk with her first-place butterfly medal.
Kirk was disappointed she didnt get a chance to chat with Phillips.
I tried to find her afterward, Kirk said. When people talk about the good flyers that have come out of here, her names always one that comes up.
Phillips was exiting the arena when asked about the Bremerton swimmer.
The name (Kirk) sounded kind of familiar, but Ive not really kept up to date much, Phillips said. I dont think this is the last time Ill be hearing her name. Shes fast and shes going to get faster.
Kirk has a best of 52.92 in the 100 fly, and had hoped to challenge the national high-school record of 52.42.
I really wanted it, but Ill race again, she said. It was a good swim, it wasnt great, but it was by no means bad. I know theres more inside of me and I just need to work harder, focus a little harder.
What could she have done to make it a faster swim?
Lots of little things, Kirk said. Better turns, you could probably breathe less, come in more excited. Theres so many things you can do looking back, but on the spur of the moment, it was the best I could do today.
The butterfly has always been her event.
Thats my baby, she said, explaining that she likes the power and the energy of the stroke. And, its ... its just a beautiful stroke.
She spread her limbs while searching for the right words.
Its like a butterfly, Kirk said. Its pretty.
While she wasnt pushed at all while flying through the water in the butterfly Tahomas Judit Farkas was a distant second in 57.69 Kirks victory in the 200 free over Chandler was hard-earned.
I definitely had to fight for that, Kirk said after opening a sizeable lead before holding off the Snohomish swimmer at the finish. I knew if I was going to have any chance of beating Megan I was going to have to take it out.
Kirks winning time (1:49.46) was the second-fastest 200 free in state history. Chandlers personal-best 1:50.23 was the fourth fastest.
That was gutsy, Bremerton coach Mike Fitzgerald said of Kirks freestyle race. We knew that girl had a stronger last 100, but Dana just gave it all at the front and said, Catch me if you can.
Fitzgerald, a first-year coach and former Naval Academy swimmer who lived in Hawaii a year ago, has become one of Kirks biggest fans.
Shes an inspiration to other high school girls, Fitzgerald said. We had nine other swimmers at the high school who were just getting into swimming or had just a little experience and she helps them out.
Shes not an elitist. Shes an elite swimmer, but she doesnt act like one.
Throughout the high school season, Kirk trained with the Tacoma Swim Club in the early morning hours at the Foss High School pool, then worked out in the afternoon at the YMCA pool with her teammates.
When she comes to my practices, shes the leader, Fitzgerald said. Shes helping the team, not working for herself. Shes coaching, demonstrating and looking for the future of Bremerton High School.
Some days, wed actually do half of her workouts. Id put fins on them and I would encourage my swimmers to try to push Dana. Say Danas doing an 800 swim. My kids would go 50 yards with her, then stop for 50 while Dana kept going. That was pretty cool, her letting us do that.
Kirks older sister, Tara, has been portrayed to be the more focused of the sisters.
Kirk scoffs when asked about focus.
Some people think you have to it in a chair with a towel over your head and think about your race when you get to the pool, she said. If thats being focused, Im not.
Focused or not, her approach works. Dont let her big smile and relaxed attitude fool you.
Danas tough, very mentally tough, Fitzgerald said. Shes almost vicious. Its not going to be someone shouting at her to make the Olympics. Its going to be her. Shes got great fire in her.