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Spotlight: Issaquah High 2018 Graduate and Swim Star Kyle Millis

Spotlight: Issaquah High 2018 Graduate and Swim Star Kyle Millis

Posted by Elizabeth Egan on 5 July, 2018

Kyle Millis has had quite the swim career in his four years at Issaquah High School! State Championship swims, both individually and as part of the medley relay team, All-American Consideration and Automatic All-American times, breaking multiple school records, serving as a captain his senior year, being named the team’s most valuable swimmer both junior and senior years, and much more has Millis leaving quite a legacy with the IHS Swim Team. Just prior to graduation we asked Millis a few questions about his swim career, best memories, and his future at University of California Berkley.

Q: One would assume from your record that you’ve been swimming a long time! When did you start swimming?

A: I actually started swimming right before my freshman year of high school on a summer swim team, and it wasn’t until my sophomore year of high school that I actually started swimming club/year round. This path was very much unlike my peers, but my athleticism combined with the fact that I had been around a swimming pool my whole life living in California, made the transition from basketball easy.

Q: What drew you to swimming versus another sport like baseball or soccer?

A: I was always the kid who tried every sport (minus soccer, always found that to be quite boring), but I played basketball passionately for 12 years ending after my freshman year season with my high school. What drew me to swimming was probably the fact that my results were based off how much effort I put in, not the person next to me who missed the game winning shot or the coach who benched me so I couldn’t ever strive.

Q: What do you enjoy most about swimming? Do you have a favorite event?

A: I say it a lot, racing is the fun part about swimming. Nobody I know LOVES practice, it’s hard and very tiring, but everyone loves to go fast. I live for the big moments- junior national finals, state finals, and hopefully one day NCAA championships. While it’s the training that I do day in and day out that gets me there, I live for racing. My favorite event is the 200 backstroke which is one of the hardest events in some people’s minds but I love backstroke so for me it’s natural. The 200 back isn’t contested at the High School level, only the Club swimming level as they don’t have enough time to do all distances for each stroke, just the short ones, so for high school, I swim the 100 backstroke (my second favorite event). 

Q: Swimming at the high school level is very team oriented. What have you learned about teamwork being on the Issaquah High swim team?

A: Working as a captain my senior year helped me learn a lot about how a team comes together to reach a common goal in such an individualized sport. I have learned lots of lessons from being on the IHS swim team and the most important one would be to reach out to every single kid on the team to make sure they feel welcomed on the team, like my captains did for me when I was new to the school, so we can build a true sense of team unity which I think is where the teamwork begins in swimming.

Q: This year at the State Championship you won your second consecutive 100 Back event – and you didn’t just win it, your crushed it with an Automatic All-American time. What was that moment like for you?

A: To be honest, disappointing. I felt a wide range of emotions after I touched that wall my senior year but the overarching thing that I couldn’t get out of my mind was that I was so close to the state record but I choked, I didn’t swim fast enough, I felt as if I had let down all my coaches and teammates but most importantly I let down myself. I have come to realize how amazing that accomplishment was and the impact it had on my school. To score points for our high school and to be recognized as a state champion was always a dream of mine since I started swimming my freshman year, and I am proud of my work.

Q: Overall you’ve had an incredible career with the IHS swim team between state championship swims, breaking school records, being named a captain, and being the team’s most valuable swimmer both as a junior and senior. What is your favorite memory?

A: My favorite memory of my high school swim career occurred during my sophomore year at state. I wasn’t a fast swimmer by any stretch at the time and my state performance was a miracle for me but looking back I was “a good swimmer” at best. However, we had an insane relay team which made all meets extremely fun to walk in knowing you could win any relay by a good margin. My relay team swam the 200 and 400 freestyle relays, winning both, but the way in which we won the 200 free relay I will never forget. We were chasing the state record, something that’s should have been out of reach for us four but we swam the most perfect relay and they announced that we got the state record, however they ended up announcing it wrong and we barely missed it but that moment in which we were screaming after we won I will never forget, especially since they got a photo of us going crazy on the front of the Seattle Times sports section.

Q: You’ve chosen to attend Cal Berkeley next year. Congratulations! Was Cal always the dream school due to their strong swim program, or were there other options you were weighing as well? What ultimately had you decide on Cal?

A: Coming from California, it was always a dream to go to a California school for college. With both my parents attending UCLA, I grew up a Bruin fan, always opposing USC and Cal, which ended up being some of my top schools in my college search. Many schools don’t have men’s swim programs so some of my top schools that I would want to attend academically like UCLA were eliminated. I always dreamed of swimming for a school like Cal with their rich tradition in swimming, but I never thought it was a reality. I remember the first time I got a phone call from Cal, I was on a first date and I remember saying, “it’s not like I’ll actually end up going there, they are too good for me”. When I realized their shared interest after they offered me a trip and then my dream began to become a reality. Since then, going to school a Cal was all I could think about, world class academics including one of the nation’s leading business schools combined with an NCAA title contender every year in swimming and you had a dream school. After I went on my trip, I knew Cal was the place for me.

Q: Do you know what you will be studying at Cal? 

A: Next year, I hope to study business next year with a focus in real estate and finance at the Haas Business School. At Cal, there is no direct admission to the business school so students must apply in their sophomore year with the intention of getting into the school their junior year to take classes for their final two years. 

Q: What are your long term plans with swimming as your transition to your collegiate career? Are there any members of the Cal team you’re particularly excited to be teammates with?

A: My long term plans with swimming include hopefully making it to the NCAA championships individually while on the team and hoping to win a national title with the boys while I’m on the team. Cal has a huge tradition of excellence in the pool finishing 1st or 2nd 9 years in a row and I hope to be a part of a team that is able to hold up the national championship trophy one day, because it all comes down to the team. After my collegiate career is over, I will most likely be done with swimming (besides swimming for fun to stay in shape), but you never know what the future holds. As far as teammates go, I am extremely excited to be a part of the backstroke group next year at Cal as they have the two best 200 Backstrokers in the United States, both Ryan Murphy and Jacob Pebley who went to Cal and train with Cal post college, represented the US at the 2016 Rio Olympics, so getting to know them is like getting to meet your idol for me as a swimmer.