Get To Know Clarion University's Kaitlyn Johnson

by Josh Huger (MrUtopia)

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Created February 19th, 2011 09:57:40 PM

Modified February 21st, 2011 11:03:52 PM

This interview is with Clarion University’s Kaitlyn Johnson. Kaitlyn, who is a senior at Clarion, has excelled during her time with the Golden Eagles under the direction of head coach Mark VanDyke.

During her time at Clarion, Kaitlyn has held a national record (400 medley relay) and set school records in the 50 free, 100 free, 100 fly, and every relay except the 800 free.

In this SwimUtopia interview Kaitlyn tells us about some of her goals going into this year’s NCAA Championships and what she says motivates her.

Let's get started!

What made you choose Clarion University?
I chose Clarion because of its size, location, and my great recruiting trip experience. The team was such a tight-knit, funny, friendly group. They really made me feel  welcome. I also really liked Coach VanDyke & Coach Tilly.

What other schools did you look at during your recruiting process?
I was interested in D1 schools like Marshall, Pitt, and WVU. In Division 2, I looked at Shippensburg and Clarion. I picked the right place!

What are some of your goals going into this year’s PSAC and NCAA Championships?  
With it being my senior year, I hope to win PSAC’s as a team, that’d be awesome! As for Nationals, I’d really like to win all three of my individual events and finish as a 28- time All American. I want to break 23 in the 50 and 50 in the 100.

What is it like training with everyone at Clarion?
Training with the Clarion team is very motivational. We’re always cheering each other on and pushing one another through tough sets. My favorite thing to do during hard sets is race the boys. The team always finds a way to make practice fun and I think that’s very important. We’re like one big family!

What does the Clarion coaching staff do to help set you up for success?
Our coaches encourage us to work hard at every practice no matter how beat up we are. A lot of Coach VanDyke’s practices involve back half 200s and 50s or 100s from the blocks with the touchpads in. These sets are so hard but at the same time, they’re my favorite. They really push you to go faster because your teammates can see what your times are and vice-versa. We can always count on 200 stroke sets when Coach Bree makes practice. Those are always challenging too, but we know they make us better. 

What is your most memorable moment so far with the team?
I have had a ton of great times with the team but I would definitely say breaking the 800 free relay school record this year at PSAC's was the best. Coach VanDyke gave us the times we had to split to break the record, told us we had the chance to win the event and qualify another girl Nationals. This, along with the 200 free, were 2 of only 3 records that hadn't been broken during Coach's time at Clarion so we really wanted to break it for him. We ended up breaking the 25-year-old record by 3 seconds, winning the event, and getting our A cut for Nationals! I swam the first leg and also broke the 200 free record! I don't think I've ever been so excited about something in my life! I could barely fall asleep that night!

What would you say your biggest accomplishment has been in swimming so far?
I would say my biggest accomplishment has been being a 7-time All-American every year at Nationals.  Being a part of 4 relay teams fast enough to earn All-American awards every year has been a great experience. Earning 9 AA’s individually is also a great feeling. I hope to finish my career with the NCAA maximum of 28.

What are your top times?
50 free- 23.09
100 free- 49.93
200 free- 1:49.97
100 fly- 54.89
200 fly- 2:04.66

What would you say motivates you?
I’m very competitive and I hate to lose. During practice, I’m always making little goals and trying to improve my times as I go through sets. This being my senior year also motivates me. I just keep reminding myself that this is my last year to accomplish my goals and if I want to do that then I have work my hardest at every practice and do whatever it takes.

What are some things that people may not know about you?
I don’t really like talking about my swimming achievements. When someone asks me how I did at a meet, I usually just say, “Pretty good!” I don’t like to bring attention to  myself. Up until college, I slept in my suit before every big meet. I could also swim  before I could walk.

What is your favorite pump-up band or artist to listen to before racing?
I mostly listen to rap before I swim. Lil Wayne is my favorite!

Do you have any pre-meet rituals?
I always have to put my suit on before I get to the pool, no matter how far into the meet my event is. I listen to my iPod on the way to the pool and focus on my goals then stretch  as soon as I get there. I have a certain warm- up for each one of my events that I do at  every big meet. I also have to go behind the block ridiculously early. I’m usually up there  before people in the last few heats of the event before me. My teammates love making  fun of me for it.

What records do you hold?

Uniontown Area High School:  50 free, 100 free, 200 free, 100 fly
Clarion University:   50 free, 100 free, 100 fly, and all relays except the 800 free

What is your favorite food?
Steak and my mom’s homemade onion rings. There’s nothing better!

Who has been the most influential person in your life?
My mother. She has always been there for me, whether it was congratulating me, cheering me up after a bad race, pushing me to work hard and do my best or listening to me complain about how hard practice was or how bad my body hurt.

What would you say is the hardest practice that you have ever done?
I’ve done a lot of hard practices at Clarion, but I’d have to say the hardest one is descending 100’s. Starting at 1:40, the interval descends by a second until you can’t make  it anymore. We do it at the beginning of the season then again after our training trip to  see how much we improve. As much as I dread that practice, I know it makes me better.

At what point in your life did you know that you wanted to take swimming to the next level?
I’ve been swimming competitively since I was 4 years old. As an 8 & Under on my YMCA swim team, I started breaking records. I continued breaking records there and as I  got older at my high school, so I knew I wanted to go to college and do the same. I  remember at my first college meet, my dad looked at the record board and said, “Your  name isn’t up there yet.” I replied, “It will be!” People always ask me if I think I’ll  continue swimming after I graduate. I know I will, whether it’s Masters Swimming,  triathlons, or maybe even Olympic trials. You never know what you can do until you try!