Kimmy Phillips’ start in swimming came almost by chance when she was growing up in Denton.
“When I was a kid, my mom looked up the Denton Dolphins swim team and told me, ‘You might like this,’” Phillips said.
It turns out, mom was right.
Phillips was a natural and will make history this week when she becomes the first swimmer from North Texas to compete in the NCAA championships. The Argyle graduate will compete in the 500 yards today before swimming in the 1,650, her best race, on Saturday in Indianapolis.
UNT first fielded a team in the 1998-99 school year but had never had a swimmer advance to nationals.
Only 281 swimmers were selected for the field, which UNT coach Joe Dykstra described as an exclusive club considering the number of programs across the country.
“I take great pride in it,” Phillips said of being the first UNT swimmer to advance to nationals. “It’s one of the highest achievements of my life so far. One of my main goals was to get to the NCAAs in the mile.”
Phillips enters the national meet seeded 25th in the event.
What makes Phillips unique is that she developed into a top college swimmer after attending a small high school.
Phillips spent two years at Guyer before enrolling at Argyle, where she spent her junior and senior seasons. She advanced to the state meet in all four years of her high school career and received 11 all-state honors.
Argyle is far from the first place Dykstra looks when it comes to finding recruits, but it was hard to overlook Phillips.
“I saw her size and watched her swim a couple of times,” Dykstra said. “She was a local product who had a lot of untapped talent. We jumped at the opportunity and had to beat Rice and Texas A&M for her services.
It was Phillips’ natural talent that caught Dykstra’s attention.
“She is 6-foot-1 and has a 6-foot-3 or 6-foot-4 wing span and a real natural endurance,” Dykstra said. “She was designed to be a fast swimmer and was not overly developed or overly coached.”
Phillips immediately developed into one of UNT’s top swimmers. She finished third at the Sun Belt Conference meet in the 1,650 as a freshman with a time of 16:40.45.
Her times have been dropping ever since. Phillips enters the national meet with a best time of 16:13.58.
Dykstra said it has been Phillips’ dedication to training that has helped her rapidly improve.
“She trained with me over the summer, came to every optional workout I ever offered and worked at my camps for kids,” Dykstra said. “She learned a lot about the sport. When you have to teach something, you understand it at a higher level.”
Phillips said that her goal for the national meet is just to perform well in her races.
For a lot of swimmers, the national meet will be the end of their senior seasons and their careers. Phillips, a sophomore, is in an entirely different situation.
“This could be a good jumping-off point for my career,” Phillips said. “My dad talked about it being a breakout year. I can just keep going up.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is email@example.com .