Kyle Johnston advances to NCAA swim championships
Kyle Johnston emerged as one of Douglas High School’s most decorated swimmers during a four-year span before his graduation in 2013. Now a junior at Colorado Mesa University, Johnston is advancing to compete on a national stage at the NCAA Division II Championships, which will be held next week in Indianapolis, Ind.
Colorado Mesa is sending a program record 12 qualifiers to the NCAA finals, which will be held Wednesday through Saturday at the Indiana University Natatorium.
Johnston, along with Joshua Bedford, Sam Bryant and Ryan Gifford comprise an 800 freestyle relay team that earned a berth and No. 5 ranking for the national championships with a season-best time of 6:32.89. They captured second-place at the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Championships on Feb. 12 with a 6:37.69 clocking.
This marks the first time the Mavericks have had a relay team qualify for the national meet (the 200 medley and 800 freestyle teams will both compete).
“Since this is our first year ever sending a relay to nationals, we want to make the most of the opportunity,” Johnston noted in an email. “We feel that settling for anything less than a top-eight All-American finish would be unacceptable. That goes not only for the 800 free relay that I’m on, but also the medley relays that my teammates are on.”
Johnston has also qualified for the NCAA meet in two individual events, with the 25th fastest time in the 1,000 freestyle (9:35.45) and No. 40 in the 200 freestyle (1:40.00).
He placed fifth in the 200 freestyle (1:41.45) at the conference meet.
Johnston added that he has set other goals to reach for at the national meet.
“I would really like to make top 16 in my 200 free, and if I can somehow sneak in a top 16 finish in my 1,000, I would be ecstatic,” he said. “My personal goal at nationals is to do everything I can to get into position to score points for the team. This leads into our team goal.
“Throughout my years here, we have slowly risen through the ranks as a team and feel that we have an opportunity this year to make a statement.”
Johnston won five Northern Division I Regional titles during his time at Douglas, including the 100-yard butterfly and 200 individual medley and one relay title as a senior in 2013. He also won six individual league titles.
The Colorado Mesa men nearly won the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Championship, falling short by a 916-915 score to California Baptist at the conference finals held on Feb. 13 at home in Grand Junction, Colo. Lindenwood (third with 908 points) and California Baptist came into the championship meet ranked No. 2 and No. 8 nationally among NCAA Division II men’s teams.
“One point in swimming is absolutely ridiculous,” Johnston said, referring to the final team scores. “RMAC’s was the most intense and emotional swim meet I have ever been a part of. Many of my teammates would agree as well.”