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The Drill: Janssen no longer swimming upstream as a Stingray

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WORTHINGTON -- Kyle Janssen, a senior at Worthington High School, likes to spend time with friends and family -- and maybe get in a little studying -- when he’s got free time.

The thing is, however, he doesn’t get a lot of free time.

A member of the WHS cross country and boys tennis teams, he is also on the Worthington Stingrays swim team in the winter. He’s also a commander in the school band, and plays percussion during concert band performances. He’s in school musical and knowledge bowl, and he’s a member of the student council.

These days, the swim team takes up a lot of his time. And he loves it.

And he’s good at it. This season, he qualified for state in the 50 freestyle, 100 backstroke, 100 freestyle, and the medley and freestyle relays. He considers his best event the 50 freestyle because he’s a natural sprinter. Not surprisingly, that’s his favorite event, too.

He began swimming when he was just 8 years old, and that’s where he began to be inspired by his coach, Donna Damm, who helped him develop from a timid novice into one of the leaders on the team.

The Globe interviewed and shot The Drill video footage of Janssen during a recent session in the Worthington Area YMCA pool. You can see it online at Here’s a sampling of the interview:

QUESTION: How long have you been a member of the Stingrays swim team? Do you remember what it was like when you first began?

ANSWER: “I began swimming on the swim team at age 8, 10 years ago. It was first at the old YMCA downtown -- just this little kid compared to all the big kids, and I was scared. I wasn’t the best swimmer, but it was a lot of fun.”

Q: What are some of the things you did to become better at swimming?

A: “To become better at swimming I had to really focus and pay attention to what my coaches were teaching. I really looked up to the older swimmers at the time. A few years ago, I started going to a.m. lap swims that the YMCA provides, and it just really helped me get in that extra practice and that extra effort to make me better.”

Q: Stingrays swimming is unlike other sports in that you’re part of the same team with a whole bunch of little kids. Do they look up to you as a big brother? And what do you do to try to help and encourage them along the way?

A: “Our youngest one is probably 6 years old, so we’re kind of baby-sitters to them. So we have to get them to their event, get ‘em on the block, and then cheer ‘em on. And then after they’re done, we have to give them a high-five and say, ‘good job,’ and then we have to bring them back to our camp. We try to make it fun.”

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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