By Heather Cass
Evan Kemp, 16, a North East High School sophomore, son of Jim and Jen Kemp, is swimming in state competition Friday, March 19, in the 200 Individual Medley (IM).
The event is like the triathlon of swimming, except instead of three events there are four strokes. Swimmers in the 200 IM do one lap each of butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle.
To be competitive in the IM, you have to master every stroke.
Kemp, who has been competing since he was in first grade, earned his fins in those long ago.
“My first official team was ECCS, a combined team of students from St. James and St. Greg’s,” Kemp said. “We competed against other Catholic schools in the Erie diocese. After that, I swam for the Eastside YMCA and the North East summer swim team.”
Kemp is a member of the North East High School swim team and also trains and competes with Peninsula Wave Riders, a USA-swimming team known locally as PWR.
He makes it all look effortless. It’s not, of course. Kemp trains hard. He has the lean body of a swimmer and the mindset of a winner.
“Swimming is just as mental as it is physical,” he said. “Swimmers who are positive and ready to go, mentally, always perform better at swim meets. Just telling yourself that you are going to do better, and getting excited for your event, can help you drop time.”
Kemp has a score to settle at states in 2021. He was there last year to compete in the 200 IM and the 100 butterfly, but only got a glimpse of the pool before COVID-19 forced organizers to cancel the meet. He never got to compete.
Were it not for limits on participants at states this year, Kemp would be competing in the fly again, and at least one relay, but smaller fields meant that only the first-place finishers in district competition moved on, rather than top two as in past years.
We caught up with Kemp to learn more about his goals, his personal records (PRs), and what he likes to do he’s not doing laps.
Do you have a goal for states?
I’m seeded 13th and my main goal is to break the 2-minute mark (current PR is 2:01.22). A secondary goal is to place in the top eight to medal.
What’s your favorite stroke? Least favorite?
My favorite is the butterfly, my least favorite is the breaststroke.
What’s your favorite event? Least favorite?
In high school swimming, my favorite event is the 100 fly and my least favorite is the 50 freestyle.
What PRs are you most proud of?
100 fly – 54.08
200 IM – 2:01.22
200 free – 1:48.86
500 free – 4:59.11
Do you have any goals for your high school career?
I want to continue to drop time and qualify for state each year. There are a couple of school records that I’m working towards. I am less than one second away from the 100 freestyle, 200 freestyle, and 100 backstroke records.
Do you get nervous before events? What are your strategies to mitigate that?
I do get nervous before bigger meets, such as districts, or anytime I’m racing against strong competitors. To calm the nerves, I just try to stay positive before and after each race, and focus on things other than how it’s going to feel. I just think about my strategies to win and what I need to do to improve my times.
Any thoughts on a future career?
I don’t have a set career plan or goal in mind, but I’m leaning toward something in fitness/training, though I’m also interested in different arts/design careers.
This year’s state swim competition will be held at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg, Pa. Livestream the meet online at PIAA.org or watch a live broadcast of the meet on the PCN TV channel. The meet starts today at 5:15 p.m.