School: Central Bucks East
Favorite athlete: David Boudia or Tom Daley
Favorite memory competing in sports: Creating friends that I will have for a lifetime.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: During my freshman year during diving, one of the guy swimmers farted while one of my team members was on the board. It was dead silent and everyone started laughing, it was so loud it echoed in the pool area.
Music on iPod: Ed Sheeran, EDM, basically everything
Future plans: Attend UNC Wilmington next year and dive for them
Words to live by: “I don’t need easy; I just need possible.”- Bethany Hamilton
One goal before turning 30: Have a family, and pursue a job the career that I love
One thing people don’t know about me: In the summer I love to go surfing
By Craig Ostroff
Diving can be a lonely sport.
Kylene Gillick knows this all too well. When she was a sophomore, Gillick was one of just two female divers at Central Bucks East. As a junior, she was alone on the boards.
In practice, the swimmers and divers are each focused on their respective routines, usually in different pools. The situation at East is even more extreme. The divers don’t even practice at the home pool. Instead, they travel to Central Bucks South and practice in the Titans’ diving pool.
Those factors are a large part of why Gillick was so surprised to be voted a captain of the girls’ swimming team her senior season. And they are the driving force behind Gillick’s primary goal as a leader – to make sure every member of the squad, whether swimmer or diver, came together as a team to support one another and to make the team a family.
“I wasn’t expecting that at all, it’s been a long time since we had a diver who was a captain at East,” Gillick said. “So for me, that was a huge honor. I think it really helped me to feel a deeper connection with all the girls and to make me really want everyone on the team to feel that way – to get the entire dive team involved with the swimmers, to make a stronger bond between everyone than we’d ever had.”
Yes, diving can be a lonely sport. Unless you do something to change that.
And while the swimmers and divers didn’t see each other very often during practices, Gillick made sure the time they did spend together was spent bonding and supporting each other.
“I’m the one that brings the speaker for music on the bus,” Gillick said. “We always have a dance party on the bus, sing on the bus. When we’re on the bus, we’re talking and singing and dancing. And during the meet, when diving starts, I’m focused on my dives, otherwise, I’m singing and dancing and cheering with the other girls.”
Patriots’ coach Tom Kane acknowledged that the unique practice situation can make it difficult for swimmers and divers to come together. But he said the fact that the team voted Gillick as a tri-captain speaks volumes about what she brings to the table.
“How can you be captain of a team when you’re practicing at a different school? Ky found ways,” Kane said. “She was in charge of our bulletin board at the pool. She spearheaded the effort to get an earlier van to get the divers to practice earlier. She checked in every day and gave me the attendance of all the divers.
“She was determined to make sure the divers on the squad participated in the whole dynamics of a swimming meet. A lot of times, divers consider themselves separate -- which diving is -- but Ky made sure everyone understood diving was one event out of 12 and we’re all a part of this together. She and Erin Lengel and Kirsten Mortimer have been such good captains and leaders.”
When it came to showing team spirit and camaraderie, Gillick truly led by example.
“Ky really worked hard to make everyone feel a part of the team, and they really became close, to the point where a lot of swimmers went to the league and district diving championships,” Kane said. “That shows how much respect the swimmers have for them. And that comes from interaction and being a part of the group.
“And Ky, on the other hand, went to the district swim meet to make sure she supported the swimmers, and she came to Suburban One Championships at North Penn.”
Gillick also breaks down the barriers between the swimmers and divers by trading the board for a swim cap at least once a year. Originally a swimmer before she took up diving in sixth grade, Gillick gets back to her roots by swimming in a freestyle relay at least once a season.
But as fun as it is to get back onto the starting blocks – and as important as it is to help build and maintain that connection between the divers and swimmers – Gillick is more than happy atop the diving board.
And the Patriots are happy to have her there.
“We had an 11-1 record this year,” Kane said. “Ky would either win the diving event, or if she didn’t take first place, she took second and got us a lot of points.”
“This was our best season as a team that I’ve been a part of,” Gillick said. “I’m really happy and impressed with our team. As for myself, I really tried to step up my game, to make myself a better athlete in the pool. I worked hard and tried to get my degree of difficulty up, trying to learn more difficult dives so I could stand a better chance at districts and in our bigger meets.”
Her efforts to improve the difficulty of her dives paid off, and nowhere is that more apparent than in her progression at the District One Diving Championships. Gillick didn’t qualify her freshman season, she was eliminated after three dives her sophomore year, and she approached the top 16 as a junior but did not advance past the second round.
This season, Gillick finished 12th out of 47 divers at the District One Championship meet.
“I was really excited,” Gillick said of her efforts. “I didn’t really know at all that this was going to be such a good meet. I was super-nervous the entire meet. Once I got past the second cut, I got more confidence. I just tried to stay calm, stay focused on my dives and what I needed to do, and not think about anything else.
“The past two years I got cut at the second round. My goal this year was to get past the second round, so to make it to the final round was mind-blowing to me. I didn’t expect that. I didn’t care that I didn’t make states, I was just excited to have the best meet of my life.
“Kylene is such a hard worker, and so focused, and she’s sacrificed every day for four years having to travel to South to practice,” Kane said. “But through sacrifice and determination over the last four years, (she) got herself into the scoring area at Districts. She really wanted that Top 16 and she finished 12th. That’s a real accomplishment when you see that journey and the progress she’s made.”
Gillick’s journey is far from over. In the fall, she will head to University of North Carolina Wilmington where she will dive for the Seahawks as she pursues a degree in physical oceanography.
“I’ve always had a love for the ocean,” she said, before adding with a laugh. “I was interested in marine biology until I took a biology class. That was it for marine biology.
“Physical oceanography is more about how tides work, why waves and tsunamis happen, how the moon affects tides.”
And while UNC Wilmington offered the major she hoped to pursue, the swimming and diving team helped seal the deal. Not surprisingly, it was the team unity that truly appealed to Gillick.
“I went in April of my junior year to visit,” she said. “I met with the head diving coach and I immediately had a really good connection with him. He told me they like to work hard and play hard, and though they are Division I, they like to have fun and do a lot of outside activities as a team. I like that team spirit. I wanted a team where swimmers and divers were close. He had said none of the divers live together, they live with swimmers. I thought that was different and special. It’s a unique way to get people to know each other. I could definitely see myself there for the next four years and call that my new home.”
Though she said it hasn’t quite hit her yet, Gillick knows her time at Central Bucks East is growing shorter. In addition to establishing herself as a standout athlete, Gillick is a member of the school’s National Honor Society, she has been in charge of fundraising for East’s Mini-THON the last two years, and she helped run the Relay For Life at the middle school last year. In addition, Gillick and the other four seniors on the girls’ swim team were recognized as National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association All-Americans.
“We’re really going to miss Ky,” Kane said. “We know what we’re losing, but we know UNC Wilmington is getting a tremendous student who is organized, disciplined, outgoing, someone who wants to support her teammates, who loves being part of a team and who will do whatever it takes to help the team.”
And when she leaves the halls and pools of Central Bucks East, Gillick is hoping that the atmosphere of respect and family that she worked so hard to foster will continue. She said she hopes current freshman diver Erin Shick will take her place to help ensure that the divers and swimmers remain close.
“I’ve known Erin for a while, and I was excited when she joined the team,” Gillick said. “The last four years we’ve worked really hard to have this connection with the team, now we’ve accomplished that goal. What we have is so special, I knew I wanted to get Erin involved as much as possible because we can’t let that end. I made sure all the new divers know that it’s really important to stay and support the swimmers, because they support us. And I think she’s going to do a great job carrying that on and passing it on.
“I hope the returning swimmers and divers carry on with the team spirit and togetherness that we as captains tried to establish so we can always be a part of the team. Of my four years, this is the closest the team has ever been. I just hope they carry the friendship and respect and caring we put out there and they keep it going.”