There are countless tough life choices that we have to make throughout our lives, but one of the most influential decisions happens at an extremely young age-which sport to play. Like most children, Kristine Kassl sampled just about every sport out there.
But at the tender age of 8, Kassl made a huge decision that has impacted her whole life. She made a splash with her atypical choice to become a swimmer. "I decided I was best at swimming. Plus, all my friends were on the same team so it was tons of fun."
The University of Tampa swimmer is a senior allied health major from Darien, Ill. She is a two-time All-American who, when faced with yet another tough life decision, couldn't have picked a better place to go to school. "I chose to come to UT because I thought it was the perfect fit for me. I fit in well academically and with the swim team. Plus, the weather is great and the campus is beautiful!"
Kassl is right about fitting in well academically; last year as a junior, Kristine was on the Sunshine State Conference Commissioner's Honor Roll, Capital One First-Team Academic All-District, and even won the D2ADA Academic Achievement Award. Kassl said that after graduating, she plans to go back to Chicago to attend graduate school for physical therapy.
Not only has Kristine not been slouching in the classroom, but she has taken the pool by storm. Last year, Kassl helped the women's team reach the NCAA Nationals where the team placed fourth in the prestigious national tournament. Kassl said that the team winning fourth, UT's best finish at nationals in 20 years, was in fact her favorite memory from her time with the UT swim team, and rightfully so-"Everything worked out perfectly for us and we were on top of the world when that happened. We all worked so hard and performed so well at that meet. That is something I will never forget."
After coming off a top-five finish at the NCAA Division II Nationals in 2012, the team completed a great regular season, winning six meets, getting second in two meets, and losing just two meets. With the team headed for the SSC Championships in Clearwater February 13-16, and then hopefully to the national meet in Birmingham, Alabama, March 6-9, Kassl is confident that they might have what it takes to go the distance again this year, "I hope we can swim just as well as last year; hopefully even faster! We have put in the hard work needed to succeed and I think that is exactly what we will do." But most importantly, Kassl says that they work really well as a team at the big SSC meets.
The freestyle swimmer has made enormous strides in the pool since her freshman year. As a freshman and sophomore, her top times for her three main races (the 500, the 200, and the 100 yard freestyle events) were very similar. But last year, Kassl made huge improvements and was significantly faster in all three of her events, shaving nine seconds off of her time for the 500 in just one year.
Kristine Kassl has had quite the career at the University of Tampa, and the story is yet to be over. She stated that she wouldn't be the swimmer she is today without the love and support from her family, team, and coaches during her "many, many, many years of swimming." Swimming has meant so much to her and Kassl says that it has shaped her into the person she is today. "It has taught me so many life lessons that I carry with me forever." And as excited as she is to head off to PT school, "I will definitely miss swimming at UT!"
Written by Carolyn Simon