WOODBERRY FOREST — The old adage “practice makes perfect” isn’t just a cute saying for Woodberry Forest swimmer Kyle Floyd. It’s a mindset and a motivating factor to strive to get better every time he’s in the pool.
The junior standout made the most of last week’s opportunity by leading the Tigers’ swim team to a convincing victory during the December Invitational held at the Barbee Center on Woodberry’s campus.
Floyd won both individual events he participated in and was part of two more relay crowns to earn Schewels Athlete of the Week honors.
Individually, he won the 200-yard freestyle with a state-qualifying time of 1 minute, 49.13 seconds, a whopping 10 seconds faster than his nearest competitor. Floyd followed that up with gold in the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 49.20 to secure a spot at the state meet.
The junior swam the anchor leg on the 200-yard freestyle relay team that won with a state time of 1:49.13. He was the third leg in the 400-yard freestyle relay team that cruised to a win with another state qualifying time (3:30.03).
“This season has been very successful so far, both for me and the team,” Floyd said. “We are undefeated in our first four meets of the season, even beating [second-ranked] Collegiate. I have been going a lot faster right now than I was at this point last season. That gives me a lot of hope to achieve my end-of-the-year goal of breaking 50 [seconds] in the 100 fly and breaking the state record in the 400 free relay.”
Like many elite high school swimmers, Floyd’s love of the sport started at a very young age. His parents enrolled him in swimming lessons and by the age of seven, he was competing in summer league swimming competitions in his community.
“When I was 10, my friend Thomas told me that I should swim all year long on a club team,” Floyd recalled. “I decided to try it and I ended up loving it.”
He also was involved in baseball and soccer as a youngster but both sports took a back seat to swimming after middle school.
“Swimming stuck with me because of the relationships built through the sport,” he said. “I have found my best friends through swimming and I don’t regret my decision to swim.”
Three years ago, Floyd was one of only four swimmers on the varsity team at Woodberry Forest. Despite the small numbers, he continued to push himself and credited Coach Greg Guldin and Charlie Moore for motivating him.
Like many swimmers of his generation, Floyd said another source of inspiration was American swimmer Michael Phelps, who holds the record for most Olympic medals won (28) by any athlete.
“I have always looked up to Michael Phelps because of the impact that he has had on the sport,” Floyd said. “His record-setting eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 has always left me in shock and that helps me believe that anything is possible.”
Another swimmer that Floyd has grown to appreciate more recently is U.S. Olympian Caeleb Dressel, a gold medalist along with Phelps in the 4x100-meter relay at the 2016 Olympic Games and the holder of numerous American and NCAA records.
Last spring, Floyd and teammates Jack Stelter and Will Fletcher traveled to Atlanta to attend a swim clinic and had a chance to meet Dressel and gain further insight into the sport.
“The clinic set off a spark in me and keeps me motivated to work hard every day,” Floyd said. “Not only is Caeleb Dressel an extremely fast swimmer, but he is also a very good person and that is important to me.”
Guldin is astonished by Floyd’s work ethic. At Woodberry Forest, he swims around eight or nine times a week to perfect his form. When he’s not at school, he swims club for Stingrays Swim Team in Fredericksburg about six times a week.
“What is so unique about Kyle is his true dedication and passion for the sport,” Guldin said. “Kyle loves swimming and is willing to commit himself to the sport, knowing full well that the sport can knock you down without letting you get back up for some time. Kyle’s passion is genuine, palpable and infectious and his relationship with the sport causes his teammates to admire swimming more.”
Floyd said the easiest part of swimming is showing up to practice every day and working hard. He credits his teammates, particularly Stelter, for holding him accountable every day.
“He pushes me in every single set and we always help each other get better,” Floyd said. “The hardest part about swimming is looking toward the future and always keeping my goals in mind when I have a bad swim. I am a big critic of myself and I always find something wrong with my swims that I can improve. Those are the times where having great teammates and coaches really helps me keep the end goal in sight and really trust in the process.”
That razor-sharp focus is evident every time Floyd steps on the deck for a race.
“I try not to talk to anybody when I go behind the blocks for my race, because I try to get in my zone to get ready for my swim.” he said. “I tend to get nervous before my races because I want to do well, so I try and talk to myself about all of the hard work that I’ve done before to get me ready for the races.”
Once the horn sounds to start the race, Floyd said his mind goes blank.
“My races are usually a blur and I don’t think about that much other than telling myself to try and swim and go faster,” he said. “I practice all of my races during practice, so that I know what to do when it’s time to step up on the block.”
Floyd’s favorite event is the 400-freestyle relay, typically the final event of every competition. The junior said there’s always a lot of hype surrounding that race and often the event decides the winner of the meet.
“Our team puts a lot of emphasis on this event because it takes a lot of heart to finish a long and tough meet well,” Floyd said. “Our relay team this year is looking at the state record in that event and we push every day at the end of the practice to hopefully achieve that goal at the end of the season. At the beginning of the season we put up “3:08.60” on one of our walls on the pool deck so every day we are reminded that we are working towards a goal together.”
Out of the pool, Floyd is just as meticulous and focused. He loves music and is an accomplished cello player. In the classroom he enjoys biology and hopes to follow in his mother’s footsteps and pursue a career in the medical field as a doctor.
In addition, he enjoys watching sports, especially soccer and hockey. He said Stelter has converted him into a hockey fan over the past two years and has adopted the Washington Capitals as his favorite team.
Floyd said he would love to continue his swimming career in college.
“One of my goals for this season and even next is to become a competitive applicant at UVa,” Floyd said. “It would mean a lot to me to be able to swim for them because the school is incredible, and Todd DeSorbo is an incredible coach.”
As for the rest of the season, Floyd said the team’s performance is all up to them. Next week, the team is scheduled to travel to Florida to participate in some training sessions in preparation for a busy couple of months in 2019.
“If our training trip goes well, then we have a really good chance of placing very highly at the state meet,” Floyd said. “Mike Keohane, Charlie Moore and Jack Stelter have done a great job of leading the team and I am very confident they will continue to do great things. A perfect season for me would involve breaking 50 [seconds] in the 100 butterfly, Woodberry winning the state meet and breaking the state record in the 400 relay.”