Jan. 14—CHEYENNE — Quin Kincheloe got a taste of the Class 4A state swimming and diving meet last winter.
The junior was part of a Cheyenne East 400-yard freestyle relay team that finished ninth. Now that Kincheloe has experienced that environment, he would like to get back in an individual event.
It's a goal Kincheloe is tantalizingly close to a third of the way into the season. His second-place time of 2 minutes, 3.97 seconds in the 200-yard freestyle was a personal best by four seconds. It also was a mere two seconds away from beating the qualifying standard for the 4A meet.
"I see the progress I'm making, and I'm trying to focus on my races and seeing what I can do to improve my times," Kincheloe said.
He'll get another crack at state qualification when the Thunderbirds host the Cheyenne Invitational today. Diving starts at 8 a.m., followed by swimming.
East coach Mark Dobler has seen Kincheloe go from an awe-struck freshman who, at times, appeared overwhelmed by the training and competition at the high school level to one he could count on showing up to voluntary preseason workouts starting in September.
"He started getting faster and seeing improvement last year, and that got him excited and made him decide to take things more seriously this year," Dobler said. "This is another step in his progression. The conversations we're having now are more advanced.
"He's understanding what's being asked of him, and he's trying to apply it in the next practice or next race."
Kincheloe's biggest area of improvement is managing his pace so he hits his desired splits while having enough energy left to finish races strong, Dobler said.
"He's really starting to understand his numbers, which is giving him the ability to be a really good all-around swimmer," the coach said.
Kincheloe comes from a family of swimmers, and has always liked the sport, even though he had a hard time finding a home at the club level. He knew the best way to get better at the sport was to do it often, which is why he tried year-round swimming in junior high.
Eventually, his other passions got in the way. He wasn't ready to abandon golf or playing the tenor saxophone and trombone in the marching and pep bands.
"The effort I put in that year helped me get huge results, but I decided I couldn't swim continuously," Kincheloe said. "I really like swimming, but I've got other things I also like to do. Halfway through that summer, I got busy with golf and band. I wasn't ready to choose anything over the others."
Having interests outside the pool doesn't mean Kincheloe isn't passionate about swimming. He expects a lot from himself, and is quick to beat himself up if he doesn't swim as well as he wants, Dobler said.
The coach is hopeful Kincheloe knocking on the door of state qualification motivates him like never before.
"I don't think he realized how close he was," Dobler said. "We talked about where he could make his improvements, and he immediately had ideas. He said he could be a little more aggressive in the front 100, and I agree."
Kincheloe is focused on increasing the amount of time he spends underwater after pushing off the wall for his next laps. He knows that's one of the quickest ways he can shave time and beat state qualifying marks.
"I have to work on my underwaters and get past the flags more," he said. "My flip turns have to be quicker. I want to push straight out instead of having to look where I'm putting my feet and then pushing."
Jeremiah Johnke is the WyoSports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or 307-633-3137. Follow him on Twitter at @jjohnke.