by Alan Hieber
Note: Saturday will be the Raiders final home meet of the year as seven seniors will be honored: Alex Layne, Austin McDonnell, Mitchell Paul, Jeff Ross, Kyah Fleckner, Ashlyn Roberts and Emily Hayhow. The Raiders will take on Cleveland State at 1 pm Saturday at the WSU Natatorium in the Wright State Student Union.
There has been a long line of talented breaststrokers to wear the Wright State cap in the pool. Sophomore Kevin McCaffrey has already shown glimpses of his own ability to kick ahead of the competition in the event.
The sports science major had a knack for swimming at seven years old for his YMCA team. In high school at Elyria Catholic, McCaffrey picked up cross country along with swimming and was a state qualifier in the 200 IM and 100 breaststroke during his senior season in 2015.
Several Ohio schools were on the top of McCaffrey’s list. He chose Wright State after speaking with WSU coach Kyle Oaks and feeling that there was room for him in the program.
When McCaffrey joined the Raiders, Oaks wasn’t sure what his impact would be on the team’s performance early on, but he thought the attitude shown by his new swimmer was unique.
“He (McCaffrey) was a very nice kid and wanted to swim. His excitement to just be on the team was refreshing,” Oaks said. “I think that his passion for improvement, and his general enthusiasm for the sport are huge contributors to his progression on our team.”
At a meet last season against Cincinnati, McCaffrey was entered in the 200 breaststroke. What seemed like an ordinary race became his breakout moment as a freshman.
“When he swam that race he must have beat his lifetime best by like 5 seconds or something silly,” Oaks recalled. “Afterward, I remember telling assistant coach Sean Dwyer that, ‘this kid might become pretty good if he keeps this up.’ Needless to say, he has continued to exceed expectations.”
During the offseason McCaffrey looked to refine his stroke and reduce drag in order to more easily flow through the water.
The technical change has proven to be effective this season, as McCaffrey has become a top threat for WSU in several events. It has contributed to personal best times of 1:55.38 in the 200 IM, 57.94 in the 100 breaststroke and 2:06.62 in the 200 breaststroke.
Something that sets McCaffrey apart as he takes each stroke is a tenacious desire to improve that his coach feels is something to behold.
“He almost always films his races, takes pictures of every practice we do, documents all his training results, hangs out at the pool for fun and just tinkers with his strokes to explore ways to become as fast as possible,” Oaks said.
With his sharp focus on preparation, it’s no surprise what some of McCaffrey’s top priorities are when he is behind the blocks.
“I always have a plan of how I’m going to swim because some of my races are a little more involved than the 50,” McCaffrey said. “I also like to have a general idea of who I’m racing and how they are swimming that season so I can know what to expect from them.”
Swimming workouts can be grueling with their repetitiveness, which makes it important to have an environment conducive to team success. Oaks referred to the practices for his breaststrokers as “nasty” in terms of their difficult nature, making this even more pertinent.
“We push and encourage each other through the really hard sets,” McCaffrey said. “We are never turning each other down because we are all working toward the same goal.”
A goal that is common amongst Raider swimmers is getting their names cemented on the record board attached to the wall of the WSU Natatorium. Oaks has little doubt that McCaffrey’s name could be visible there one day.
“He has so much time ahead of him, the sky is really the limit,” Oaks said. “The awesome thing is, he prepares everyday like it is the last time he will ever race. I love that about him. That is what makes him a champion.”