Eastlake’s Kim eyes Omaha | Prep sports feature

The Wolves' sophomore and Bellevue Club Swim Team standout hopes to add more state titles and a trip to Nationals in 2012

Andy Pym knows how to motivate.

After working with Eastlake sophomore Edward Kim on the Bellevue Club Swim Team since Kim was in elementary school, the longtime coach is aware of exactly what to say to make sure Kim is pushing himself to his limits.

“At times when I’m not working hard he asks me, ‘do you think that will get you to Omaha?,” Kim said. “It drives me to work harder than I normally would.”

The reference to Omaha points towards Kim’s goal of making the Olympic Trials later this year in Omaha, NE. Kim won the 100 and 50 free for Eastlake at the 4A state championships last season and knows there is more on the horizon in the pool as both a prep and accomplished club competitor, including a chance at the maximum eight individual titles at the state meet.

He travelled to Stanford for the Junior Nationals and has swam at several other national club meets, learning some difficult lessons during the process after finishing 24th in one event and failing to make the finals in another.

“I’m just thinking, ‘wow, I’m not even close to the top right now and I need to work harder,” Kim said of his mindset after junior nationals. “They have probably worked twice as hard as I have.”

Pym said initially, Kim was somewhat reserved in his passion for swimming. But as the time dropped and the records piled up, a light bulb went on and Kim’s potential in the pool became obvious to both himself and Pym.

“He’s dominated 15 and under locally and at the sectional level he’s pretty good, one of the top four or five,” Pym said. His swimming abilities are really natural.”

While other club swimmers provide the type of top-level challenge Kim thrives on, the prep scene offers some unique opportunities as well. In his first year on campus at the high school, Kim has found swimming to be a bridge to other aspects of social life.

“When I came to Eastlake I didn’t know everyone and the swim team helped me meet more people,” Kim said. “I grew to know more people through the swim team and that has been a big facet helping me fit in.”

It would be easy for the multiple state champ to coast along on sheer ability on the prep level, where many of his opponents swim for fitness and enjoyment rather than a shot at the Olympic Trails. But Eastlake coach Kate McCary (who also swam for Pym during her youth) insisted the exact opposite has been the case.

“He does whatever he can to be part of both teams and he makes it all work,” McCary said. “It sets a positive environment for the whole team.”

Rather than remaining content in Kim’s shadow, the rest of the Wolves have taken up the challenge of matching his intensity and dedication, earning a fifth place team finish at the 4A state swim and dive championships last season. Perhaps no one has benefited more than 100 breaststroke champion Zach Alleva, a senior captain for McCary and Eastlake in 2012.

“You don’t get to practice around guys that good very often,” said Alleva, who is an accomplished club swimmer in his own right with Kim’s former team at Wave Aquatics. “When you do, it’s a good chance to push yourself and see if you can beat him.”

The competitive nature of the two lends itself well during workouts and conditioning, but neither has allowed the friendly competition to skew their perspective or focus on the possibilities for the Wolves in 2012. McCary has also been impressed with Kim’s willingness and desire to become part of the fabric of the team.

“He knows the boys and builds relationships with them no matter what level they are at,” McCary said.

Eastlake earned a pair of second place finishes last year in the 200 medley relay and 200 free relay and with Kim, Alleva and Henry O’Neil returning from that group, have a chance to again make a run at both individual and team titles this season.