Matt Kuhlik didn’t see himself heading south as he considered which college swimming program to join.
“I was looking at small schools in the north like Amherst, Williams, and Dartmouth,” said Kuhlik, a sprint star for the Princeton High boys’ swim team who helped the Little Tigers to an undefeated season and its first state title during his senior campaign in 2011-12.
“I was also looking at Georgetown and Johns Hopkins and I thought I was going to one of them.”
But then Kuhlik took a trip to Atlanta and Emory University that changed the course of his swimming career.
“I didn’t want to visit Emory but my mom dragged me down there,” recalled Kuhlik.
“I talked to the coach and I really liked him. I went down on a recruiting trip and I really liked the team. I committed before I left.”
It looks like Kuhlik made the right choice as he has fit in well with the squad, quickly establishing himself as a valuable sprinter for the Eagles.
Kuhlik didn’t waste any time showing his prowess, taking second in the 200 freestyle in the season-opening meet against North Carolina-Wilmington.
“It was parents’ weekend and there was a lot of people there,” said Kuhlik, who clocked a time of 1:43.87 in finishing second by 0.12 of a second.
“I had a really good race and I just got touched out at the end. The team atmosphere in college helps you go faster, there is a lot of support.”
Kuhlik likes the support he has gotten from his teammates in adjusting to college swimming.
“Every class bonds,” said Kuhlik, noting that he has grown close to his fellow freshmen. “We also hang out with the older guys and they show us the ropes.”
While Kuhlik believes that swimming for PHS and the Princeton Piranhas club program prepared him well for the next level, he has dealt with a different training emphasis in college.
“It is not as much yardage as we did in club training but there is more weight lifting,” said Kuhlik.
“We lift weights in the morning and we do heavy lifting. With the Piranhas, the weight lifting was more maintaining strength. We were also running circuits in the fall. We have nine practices a week so it takes about 20 hours. We did a lot of yardage in club, around 8,000 yards a session. Sometimes we approach 8,000 yards here but there are other workouts that are around 6,000 or 5,000. I was used to being one of the fastest kids; now I am last in the lane sometimes. I think the new training helps, things are more specialized.”
Kuhlik is looking to put that training to good use at the University Athletic Association (UAA) championship meet next month at the University of Chicago.
“We have the conference meet coming up at the end of February and everyone is going for times there,” said Kuhlik, who swam the anchor leg to help Emory to a win in the 200 free relay last weekend as the Eagles topped Savannah College of Art and Design 146-105.
“It would be amazing to make nationals but the time cutoffs are really tough. I am going to try to make it on a relay but I would have to be one of the four fastest swimmers.”
For Kuhlik, the sprint events bring out the best in him. “I think I am really competitive,” said Kuhlik. “In the sprint races, you go all out and try to beat the person next to you. In the longer distance races, you swim in a group and try to pull away.”
With the experience Kuhlik has picked up this winter, he is ready to pull away from the competition over the long haul.
“Now that I understand the training, I am going to come back in good shape,” said Kuhlik. “I am going to do more running and lift weights in addition to swimming.”