By Desirée Keegan
Coach Mark Anderson asked Port Jefferson swimmer Kyra Sommerstad what her goal was heading into the 200 individual medley race at the Suffolk County championships Nov. 4.
“I want to go 2:04,” she answered, which would be a career best for the sophomore.
By the time she touched the wall, Kyra had completed the 200 yards in 2 minutes, 4 seconds, which also earned her a first-place finish.
“Watching her swim, she looked great,” said Anderson, her Three Village Swim Club coach for the last two years. “She had gone a 2:04, and I thought that spoke to the kind of person she is. She’s incredibly driven, very positive and she goes into every race knowing what she wants to do and how she wants to do it. It makes me proud to see someone grow the way she has over the last couple of years to someone that is capable of setting a goal in her mind and achieving it.”
On top of placing first in the individual medley, Kyra also grabbed gold in the 100 backstroke.
“I knew from last year that I could win,” said Kyra of the county meet at Suffolk County Community College’s Brentwood campus. “I really went into it determined and I really wanted to win the same events that I won the year before.”
Being the top seed gave her confidence going in that she could reclaim the county crown in both races, she said. She said Anderson and Port Jefferson head coach Mary Fleckenstein helped her work on her technique and mentality to get her ready to race. Prior to getting into the water, she stretched and listened to pop music to get in the zone.
“I swam some fast times before counties so I knew where I was going into it,” she said. “I get myself pumped up by listening to music. I just didn’t want to drop my spot.”
Port Jefferson athletic director Danielle Turner said seeing all that the swimmer has been able to accomplish at such a young age is inspiring.
“Kyra is an outstanding student and an overall great person,” Turner said. “She never looks for recognition or praise, however her accomplishments and incredible ability should absolutely be highlighted. She has represented Port Jefferson in the most positive of ways and on many stages. We could not be more proud of Kyra, and we are excited to see what the future holds for this young talent.”
Fleckenstein shared a similar sentiment, adding that she’s been a joy to work with.
“She’s very impressive,” the coach said of Kyra. “She’s such a sweet girl. She’s gracious, she’s easy to work with. She doesn’t go in with an ‘I’m going to win because I’m the best’ attitude. She gets in the pool and does her job.”
Anderson and Fleckenstein have seen the sophomore mature over the last year, and said they think bigger and better accomplishments are ahead.
“She challenges herself every day,” Fleckenstein said. “She doesn’t like to miss practice. They’re all signs she’s headed in the right direction. There’s some untapped talent in there, and her club coach has been doing a great job bringing her along. By the time she graduates she’ll be sought after by many colleges.”
Her Three Village Swim Club coach has been focusing on underwater work with his swimmer, including off-the-block movements, hand speed, tempo and turns.
“I’ve been extremely happy with how she’s raced so far without having time to rest,” Anderson said. “In the next couple of weeks she has the state championship, the winter junior nationals down in Knoxville, Tennessee, and then she’s going to have our team’s travel meet in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. There’s a lot of fine-tuning this week that goes into hopefully putting together the perfect race this weekend and it’s going to be a real test to see how she’s prepared over the last couple of months.”
He added, with her attitude, he knows she’ll succeed.
“She is incredibly positive, incredibly hard-working, dedicated, she’s a great student in the classroom and just getting to know her and getting to see her grow up and mature has been a real enjoyment for me,” he said. “She is a coaches dream.”
Kyra validated Anderson’s comments, saying she’s ready for what lies ahead.
“I’ll be working really hard in the pool and perfecting my technique,” she said. “I’m getting ready to swim fast.”