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The key to winning

By Laurie Prince

On Feb.17, 2012, Kyle House set a record at Queens when he swam the 100-yard butterfly. The day before and the day after, he was part of record-breaking relays in freestyle and medley events. And let's not forget what happened last fall. In October he set the Queens record for men's 50 butterfly. A month later he set the record for the 200 backstroke. Not bad for the transfer student's first year competing. After spending a year on the sidelines, he was glad to get in the water.

"I got to sit back and learn," House says of his arrival at Queens in the fall of 2010. Within weeks of transferring from Purdue University, the lanky Indiana native faced a serious setback. While dancing at his cousin's wedding, something went awry on his six-foot, three-inch frame. He called his new coach, Jeff Dugdale.

"I think there's something really wrong with my knee," he said.

"How bad is it?" Dugdale asked.

"Really bad," House answered.

Turned out, he had a dislocated knee. The Olympic hopeful was not off to a good start. But today, he's philosophical about it. "It turned out to be beneficial," he says. As captain of the team, he got to know his teammates and to observe the routines instituted by Dugdale.

Head Coach Dugdale, who is over both the men's and women's teams, has nothing but praise for House. "He leads by example and is a high performance swimmer," says Dugdale. According to the coach, the affable 22-year-old sets the bar, from how he handles his emotions in competition to how he prepares for practice. "He's a pretty special kid," says Dugdale. "If I had boys, he's what I would want."

Dugdale recruited House not only to swim, but to help him shape the program at Queens. "He's helped build the foundation of the house that our future's going to be living in," says Dugdale. A former Duke University coach, Dugdale emphasizes academic achievement and character as much as success in the water. Queens launched the swim program in the spring of 2010, and House was a key recruit.

House grew up swimming-both of his parents are coaches with the Cincinnati Marlins, a swim program that has produced numerous Olympians. At various times they have coached House and his two siblings: an older sister and a younger brother. "When your parents coach you, it can lead to awkward dinner time conversations," he says, smiling. But their family is close. "My dad has missed only one meet this season," House says, "and that's because he was at my brother's meet." It's a nearly eight-hour drive from Indiana to Charlotte. For out-of-town meets, the drive can be even longer.

House trains regularly at the Mecklenburg Aquatic Center, alongside of Olympic hopefuls who live in Charlotte and train under David Marsh through SwimMAC, a competitive swim association. Swimmers in the program have consistently shown up on Olympic rosters, including 2008 Gold Medalist Mark Gangloff. "It's hard not to be motivated when you're swimming next to potential Olympians," House says.

During the season, practice is grueling. On Monday mornings, the team bus leaves Queens at 5:30 a.m., and House is in the pool by 6. He heads out of Wireman Dorm five mornings a week for practice, and three afternoons a week there is a follow-up practice with weight room workouts. It's a tough challenge-balancing school with training and competition. But House, who maintains a high GPA, says that the unique environment at Queens contributes to his success.

"You get to know your professors so well," he says. Coming from a university with an undergraduate enrollment of more than 30,000, he was struck by the sense of community at Queens. "Everybody really knows each other on a personal level," he says. That was especially apparent during a recent exchange with a McColl School of Business instructor who pulled him aside to talk about his future. Observing his skill set, she saw the potential for a career in business. She recommended he learn more. It's the kind of feedback that comes from one-on-one relationships.

House doesn't know where he's headed, but with top grades, leadership experience, swim achievements and strong relationships, he's hopeful about the future. There's only one thing he'll be avoiding. "I've been banned from dancing," he says with self-effacing humor. "I stay away from that."

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