During her sophomore year in high school, Kinsley Moore took a chance and traded her cheerleading uniform for a swimsuit. Her start in the sport was rough, but the competitor in Moore refused to give up and that has made all the difference for the the senior swimmer.
Moore said she knew it was going to be quite the transition from her first practice.
“At my first practice…” Moore said, “Wig [Linda Wiginton] gave me a concerned half-smile and said, ‘You’re going to need a little work but I know I can turn you into a swimmer.’ Last year, I made it to the state championships in the 100-meter fly. I get a thrill from pushing myself to the max not only in a meet but also in practice.”
It is the determination to be better that has propelled Moore to where she is today. No matter how difficult each meet has been and no matter how tired she might get, Moore said she continues to push herself harder during each practice and every swim meet in hopes that she can reach her ultimate goal, a state championship.
A multi-sport athlete at a young age, Moore’s focus is now on swimming. She said most of it comes from the feeling that she is part of a big family and that swimming is the only sport she has ever had that feeling with.
“I’ve done every sport from cross country to tennis and basketball,” Moore said. “I’ve never been a part of a team that takes the term ‘family’ seriously. We are all extremely close and can lean on each other no matter what.”
It is part of what has made this team so successful. Few teams in the state can boast about the amount of success they have had like the Altus programs. While the girls’ team has never won a state championship, each competitor has been in the thick of the hunt nearly every year.
Moore said that is all thanks to the coaches and the atmosphere they have built around the program.
“Wig and Michael [Shive] are some of the best coaches in the state,” Moore said. “What sets them apart from all the others is that they not only coach us in swimming but they also coach us in life. They keep us all strong in our faith and drive us to be better people.”
Their coaching has helped mold Moore into one of the best swimmers on the Lady Bulldogs’ roster. Wiginton said Moore is one of the hardest workers on the team and a great person to be around.
“She has a great work ethic,” Wiginton said. “There is no drama where she is concerned and she is usually always upbeat and fun. She also loves the Lord and is not afraid to share her faith.”
With all the hard work finally paying off, the desire to do more for her team was born and now, Moore said it is her goal to make it back to state but to do so in more than one event.
Since finding swimming, Moore said she has transformed into a better athlete and person. While swimming is a team sport overall, Moore said when you’re in the pool, you can only depend on yourself. Her desire to make her teammates, coaches and community proud of her has helped shape her into the athlete and competitor she is today.
She has had to learn how to block out any distractions and focus on the race, digging deeper with every stroke to give her team the advantage. Moore said getting and staying focused begins long before the race does.
“Before I ever get behind the blocks,” Moore said, “I remind myself that no matter the outcome, it will be for the Lord. I don’t listen to music before because that just stresses me out. I take a few deep breaths before I dive in. It is super hard to focus during the race itself, especially at regionals and state. Your body is burning and your head is pounding but I can usually keep focused by feeling myself grab the water and throw it back.”
Moore said she also focuses on her breathing, especially in the fly where she has to push her self harder and keep up a fast rate of turnover. She also said another thing that helps her push through the pain and fatigue is seeing her opponents out of the corner of her goggles.
“I really pick it up if I see them creeping up,” Moore said. “But the bottom line is — and Wig can testify to this — you just have to keep thinking ‘go fast!’”
Moore said her goal is to make it to state again and to make it on the podium. She also wants to see the team place in the top five at state.
She said the team has graduated a lot of the team’s key talent over the last two years but many have stepped up to fill the holes left and she is excited to see what this team can do.
“Everyone had their doubts about how we would look without them,” Moore said. “But we have a pretty well-rounded group of seniors and we have had freshman and sophomore swimmers beat out some of the seniors on relays while pulling faster times. Since June, this team has been pushing and fighting to advance in competition and they are proving it every day. The younger kids have a desire and work ethic like I’ve never seen and I see big things for them these next few years.”
Moore is focused on helping the team this season, but the thought has not escaped her that this is her last season on the swim team.
More than anything, Moore said she will miss her “family” and all the help and support they have provided her over the last three seasons. She also said she will miss the community and that the community has really grown to love the sport of swimming and it has meant the world to her and her teammates.
“I’ll miss the sport, my teammates, coaches and community,” Moore said. “I’ll miss constantly bettering myself in a sport that means the most to me and being able to see Wig, Michael and my teammates every day. I will also miss the support from our community because they have helped mold us into who we all are.”
Moore said the support given to the team by the community has helped keep them all motivated when they didn’t think they could push through.
“Motivation is huge because this sport is all mental,” Moore said. “Half of the time you think you’re going to drown because you’re holding your breath and trying to go as fast as you possibly can. The other half of the time, you’re freaking out because you’re worried about someone in the lane next to you going faster. Motivation is huge. I’m not always successful but every day in practice, I try to be the one who encourages the team to push forward and fight through the pain.”
Additionally, Moore said her relationship with the Lord has helped pull her through the trying times.
“My relationship with the Lord also motivates me,” Moore said, “To perform to the best of my abilities and to be the best possible version of myself. Seeing Wig and Michael jumping up and down telling you to kick in the middle of a race also has an effect on my motivation.”
The Altus swim teams will be back in the pool at home on Saturday, Jan. 13, at 10:15 a.m. against Yukon.
Reach Ryan Lewis at 580-482-1221, ext. 2076.
Reach Ryan Lewis at 580-482-1221, ext. 2076.