Boys swimming: Chesterton’s Kevin Kinel named P-T Coach of the Year
By Mike Clark Post-Tribune correspondent March 22, 2013 9:56PM
Chesterton coach Kevin Kinel is the Post-Tribune coach of the year for 2013. Photographed at the CHS pool Monday Mar. 4, 2013. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 24, 2013 6:15AM
The question was inevitable, even if the timing seemed a bit soon.
Can Chesterton win a second straight boys swimming state title and fourth in seven seasons in 2014?
“People were talking about it before we got off the deck (at this year’s state meet),” Trojans coach Kevin Kinel said. “It’s hard to ignore.”
Indeed. The Trojans put the pedal to the floor from the get-go this season and never let up, relying on a one-for-the-ages junior class to win pretty much everything in sight.
For keeping Chesterton on course to its date with destiny, Kinel is the Post-Tribune’s Boys Swimming Coach of the Year.
Hopes were high in Chesterton before the season even started.
“I think ... after last year and having the talent we had back and having the kind of summer all those kids had — at the start of the season I think everybody understood we had a real shot at winning state,” Kinel said.
Then the Trojans went to a pair of traditional early-season tests in early December, the Hall of Fame Classic and the Homestead Invitational, and it became even clearer how good they were.
Chesterton won both meets in decisive fashion. Blake Pieroni and Jack Wallar both won three events as the Trojans took 11 first at the Hall of Fame; Pieroni set two meet records, Aaron Whitaker had a third and the 400-yard freestyle relay team added a fourth to highlight Chesterton’s nine firsts at Homestead.
Apart from putting up exceptional times, the Trojans put a thought in their opponents’ heads: We’re going to be hard to beat in February.
Or, as Kinel put it, his swimmers’ mindset was: “We want to win this invite, but we know we’re going to see these guys at state.”
After those meets, the Trojans settled into their midseason training routine, never forgetting about the big prizes on the horizon.
They showed no signs of looking ahead as they took care of business at conference and sectional, winning the former for the 17th straight season and the latter for the 15th year in a row.
Aaron Whitaker broke his brother Kyle’s 100 butterfly meet record at the Duneland Athletic Conference meet, with Aaron’s twin brother Ethan (500 free) and Wallar (100 breaststroke) also setting league marks.
Then Aaron Whitaker broke the sectional records in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke, Ethan Whitaker bettered the 200 free meet record and Chesterton set marks in the 200 medley and 400 free relays.
“We sort of swam through the sectionals,” Kinel said. “We felt like our big drops were to come.”
They were. Aaron Whitaker broke state-meet records in the butterfly and backstroke in Friday’s prelims and joined Pieroni, his brother Ethan and Patrick Curley in breaking the 400 free relay meet record.
“After Friday’s results, I think everybody realized the sky was the limit,” Kinel said.
On Saturday at state, Aaron Whitaker broke both of his day-old meet records and the Trojans also had a pair of firsts from Pieroni, who set a meet record in the 100 free and also won the 200 individual medley.
The Trojans also took first in the 200 medley and 400 free relays en route to beating runner-up Indianapolis North Central by 35 points.
Now, thoughts turn to next year. For Kinel, also the head coach for Chesterton’s girls, the latest title is a tonic.
“It sure doesn’t hurt,” he said. “It makes some of the hard work worthwhile. It’s a tough sport. You give up a lot, a lot of time (away) from your family.
“As I’m getting older, it’s not getting any easier.”
But the titles and records and honors — those sure seem to be coming effortlessly for his swimmers.