Pooling The Wins
Nickel Brothers Both Excel For VAST
Posted: January 7, 2013
HARRISONBURG – As Kyle Nickel put it, he doesn’t do well with “beepy things.”
The East Rockingham High School freshman lost his cell phone for the second time in two months and broke his talking alarm clock recently, too. Nickel doesn’t know exactly how the latter incident happened – only that he awoke one December morning to find his alarm no longer functional.
He said he may have hit the snooze button a little too hard.
“I got another talking one for Christmas,” Nickel said, grinning.
Luckily, the 14-year-old has a more suitable setting to take on a ticking clock: the swimming pool.
On Saturday, Nickel and his 17-year-old brother, Ryan, got the rare opportunity to compete in the same heat, as well as team up on four winning relay teams, while representing the Valley Area Swim Team Gators in an odd age group meet this weekend at James Madison University, which drew regional swimmers from areas such as Winchester, Roanoke and Fredericksburg.
In Kyle’s case, it was basically him against the clock as he won all 10 of his events in the two-day meet.
“He’s going to break all my records as a junior… as much as I hate to say it,” Ryan Nickel, an ERHS senior, said Sunday after competing head-to-head with his younger brother in the 14-and-over 200-yard freestyle. “He’s faster than me and is only going to get faster.”
He also started swimming at an earlier age. The brothers took up the sport simultaneously about seven or eight years ago after trying virtually every other youth sport offered – soccer, basketball, baseball, football – and even giving karate a try.
However, swimming was about the only sport that wasn’t eventually abandoned. The lone exception: football for Ryan Nickel (he plays defensive end and tight end).
Kyle thought about quitting swimming, too, when he started training year-round in the VAST program, since he was dealing with “saddening” 280th-place finishes out of 400 swimmers at meets. But mostly, he said, it was just far more rigorous than what he was used to in his youth summer league. But his parents, Eric and Jackie Nickel, who were both collegiate basketball players, convinced him to keep at it.
“I’m glad they did,” said Kyle Nickel, who is in his fourth year of VAST.
Nickel, who typically competes in the 13-14 age group, won six individual meets in the 14-15 division this weekend: the 200 individual medley (2 minutes, 15.11 seconds), 100 breaststroke (1:12.76), 100 freestyle (54.34), 50 free (24.26), 100 butterfly (career-best 1:01.43) and 200 free (1:59.27).
Then, the technically gifted youngster teamed up with his brother and two other 17-year-olds – Aaron Glick and Tanner Clark – to win all four of the 12-and-over relays: 200 medley (1:48.53), 400 medley (4:05.43), 200 free (1:35.79) and 400 free (3:41.00).
The younger Nickel is also making quite an impact for the swimming team at East Rockingham, where he’s also preparing for his third school musical, “Hello Dolly!” Last season, the Eagles began the winter with just two swimmers on the boys’ team and finished with one – Ryan Nickel. Now, there are four with Kyle Nickel coming on as a freshman.
“It’s enough to make up a relay,” Ryan Nickel said. “That’s all we really need.”
And Ryan’s brother is “one of the more dynamic legs” on the relay team, capable of swimming any of the strokes, including the backstroke at the VAST meet this weekend.
“I’m not a backstroker,” Kyle Nickel said, “but I’m good at everything, and my coach [Steve Phillips] said I was the only option left.”
Hugely complimentary of one another – the 6-foot-4, 190-pound Ryan praised Kyle’s endurance and technique, while the 6-foot-1, 150-pound Kyle lauded Ryan’s upper-body strength and power in sprints – they couldn’t help but get a little sibling rivalry going, especially in their shared 200 freestyle race on Sunday.
It coaxed a smile from their father, who watched Kyle win rather easily four lanes apart.
“It’s a problem in the household if they butt heads too much,” Eric Nickel said with a smile.
But clearly not a problem for VAST.