Higgins in the swim of things for Peters Township
When Kyle Higgins traveled to Knoxville to compete in the Speedo Winter Junior National swimming championships, the Peters Township senior felt like a fish out of water.
“It was an eye-opening experience because everyone was so fast,” Higgins said of the country’s best young swimmers. “I just had to tell myself that I belonged there. I focused on myself and not how fast everyone else was.”
When he does that, the swimming world learns exactly how fast Higgins is and that he, indeed, belongs. In his signature swim, the 200-yard butterfly, Higgins emerged from the University of Tennessee pool with a top 51 and personal best time of 1:53.30.
“My favorite event is the 200 fly,” Higgins explained. “I like the length of it. It isn’t an all out sprint you have to pace yourself and I like that.”
Back in McMurray, the 18-year-old swimmer sets the pace in a variety of lengths. He even enjoys setting the standard in the shorter races equally well. In fact, he owns some of the top scholastic times this season. He also holds several pool and school records.
His best times are 21.8 in the 50-yard freestyle and 1:43 in the 200 free. He holds the school record in the 500 free with a 4:37.1 mark. Although recorded during a club meet, his best 100-yard backstroke time of 51.7 bettered the school record. Together with Chris Buzard, Andrew Rich and Dan Pletz, Higgins helped set pool and school records in the medley and 400 free relays with times of 1:34.7 and 3:08.9. That foursome also set the 200 free relay record with a 1:27.
Of the four-year varsity letterwinner his high school coach Tom Fletcher noted, “Kyle was always good. Good as a freshman, a sophomore and last year. Now, he’s close to being great. He’s so confident and he’s really matured. He’s very humble, but he’s also confident in his abilities.”
Higgins is confident he can be a force in the upcoming district championships set for Feb. 28 and March 1 at the University of Pittsburgh’s Trees Pool as well as the PIAA finals set for March 14-16 at Bucknell University. He will compete in two relays and the 100 backstroke along with the fly. At the WPIAL meet, he has an opportunity to break the record of 48.97 set by his teammate, Adam Rich, last year.
“Breaking the WPIAL record in the fly has definitely been on my mind,” said Higgins, “but states is the bigger picture for both events.
“My goal in the fly is definitely to break 50,” he added of his best time in the event.
Breaking time barriers has been Higgins’ objective since starting swimming in the recreation programs. The Mt. Lebanon Aqua Club member has garnered All-America acclaim athletically as well as academically. A 3.9 honors student, he will attend the University of Kentucky next fall. He will swim for the Wildcats while studying kinesiology with the expectations of becoming a physical therapist on the sports side of that occupation.
“I want to be in the medical field and I love sports so I want to be around to help athletes,” he explained.
Higgins’ work ethic helps him and the athletes around him excel.
“He goes after it,” said Fletcher. “Kyle works hard. He’s a great example to the other swimmers.”
Most mornings Higgins is up a 4:40 a.m. for practice. After he attends school, he’s back in the pool for more practice. Once home, he eats, does homework then goes to bed.
“That schedule works for me,” he said. “Swimming keeps you on a schedule. I feel like I do the same thing everyday, but I believe it helps me. I believe there is a correlation between fast swimming and good grades.
“The worst thing about swimming is that it is so time consuming. But,” he added quickly, “it is all worth it when you get a best time at a big meet. You know all the time you spent practicing was worth it.”
Cultivating friendships and accruing knowledge have made swimming worthwhile for Higgins, too. Throughout his career, he has been exposed to “almost all” of the coaches in the region and they have impacted him positively he says.
“The friends you make and the people you meet,” Higgins said are among the best things about swimming. “All my coaches have had a positive impact on my career. I am happy with the coaches.”
Higgins is also pleased with Fletcher, who took over as PT’s head coach midway through his scholastic career. Of the coaches he is ending his high school and club careers with, Higgins says that he is happy.
“(Fletcher) has been a great coach and he has helped the team grow. With a huge senior class leaving, Peters will still be a great team,” Higgins said. “Fletch doesn’t only care about swimming, he also stresses that we are good people in and out of the pool.”
Parents: Dan and Diane
Siblings: Ryan and Casey
School: Peters Township
Achievements: Junior National qualifier. All-American and Scholastic All-American. PIAA & WPIAL qualifier since freshman year.
Favorite class: AP Biology. My favorite elective is art and my least favorite class is math.
College choice: Kentucky
Career path: Sports physical therapy
Favorite food: Any kind of pasta
Best beverage: Iced Tea
Best dessert: Cheesecake
Recent read: “The Hunger Games”
Twitter or Facebook? Twitter. No particular reason, but you are in control of who you follow.
How many pairs of goggles do you own? Don’t know the exact number but I have a lot. I go through multiple pairs a season because I like to have new ones for big meets.
Place you’d like to visit: Australia.