INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Judging by the field of endless collegiate caps this week at the Phillips 66 National Championships, IUPUI is not a comfortable place for a high school swimmer. The American Olympic entourage returned to Indianapolis in force this week to compete for spots at next month’s FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
Mixing in with the big names on Wednesday was Carmel’s 6-foot-4, 190-pound phenom Drew Kibler.
“I’ve never really had an expectation of myself to compete with the best in the country,” Kibler said. “I’ve raced them before but I haven’t experienced what it was like to try and beat them.”
This past February, Kibler racked up five IHSAA records in route to Carmel High School’s third consecutive IHSAA boys state championship. This week, Kibler qualified for U.S. Nationals in six separate events.
Wednesday morning did not go as planned. Kibler admitted the hype around the event led to a change from his normal race psyche in the 200M freestyle and 200M backstroke. Kibler failed to qualify for Wednesday night’s final in both events, ending the 17-year-old’s quest to become the youngest U.S. male to earn a spot in a world championship pool since 16-year-old Michael Phelps did so in 2001.
“If you’re looking at 2020 (Olympics), you need to go through some of these tough times right know,” Carmel Swim Club Head Coach Chris Plumb said. “It is really difficult against these big guys but he is one of them now. He needs to understand that.”
Kibler is widely considered one of the top two male swimmers in the country for the class of 2018. You won’t find another one like him.
Born with a hearing impediment, Kibler once found listening to coaches and teammates the toughest part of getting through practice. As his name continues to grow in swimming circles around the country, Kibler wants young kids with hearing loss to follow his lead.
“Would I like that to be part of my mission? Yes,” Kibler said. “I don’t think it is anything that should make people ashamed of themselves. It just makes you a little different.”
“He wears hearing aids more now than ever,” Drew’s mother Tracy Kibler said. “He even wears them to the pool so he can use them in-between workouts. We’re really proud of him for doing what he has to do.”
After his senior year at Carmel High School, Kibler will trade in his trunks for a new pair at the University of Texas beginning in the fall of 2018. The three-time reigning NCAA champion Longhorns are well represented this week at IUPUI and Wednesday they got an up close look a big piece of the program’s future.
“We are super excited to have him in a couple of years,” 2016 Olympic gold medalist and University of Texas junior Townley Haas said. “I think he is going to be an incredible addition to our team. He is tough from what I have heard.”
Tough enough for Texas swimming. Now that’s tough.