Bear profiles: Kelly Kono
Senior Kelly Kono, captain of the women’s swim team, is a very humble and outgoing individual. But underneath that cheerful exterior is an internal fire that helps her leave competitors in her wake.
“She’s an interesting duality,” Head Coach Brad Shively said. “She’s got all these components to her, but honestly, when she gets to a race, she’s pretty mean.”
Kelly’s competitive focus has definitely proven its worth. Currently, Kono holds six school records, three of which are in individual events. She is an 18-time All-America swimmer and has qualified for the NCAA Division III Championship each of the past three years; this year will be no exception.
While Kono has been swimming for 16 years and has trained tirelessly to attain her successes, she attributes much of her success to her team.
“I think a lot of the time what motivates me the most is not letting down my teammates,” Kono said. “During a lot of relays when I’ve been racing to catch up or stay in the lead, I think of or envision my teammates, the people who are counting on me and who I don’t want to let down.”
“That’s always a relief to have her on your relay, because you know when she goes in the water, anything that she can do, she will do,” junior Jessica Lodewyk said.
Like many other varsity athletes, Kono chose Wash. U., since it mixed top-tier D-III athletics and academics.
“I looked at a lot of schools,” Kono said, “and when it came down to the choice between a D-I program and a D-III program, I picked Wash. U. because it offered the best of both worlds.”
Kono’s intensity in the water is tempered by her spirit and enthusiasm for her team. Although she takes her role as captain seriously, Kono is always eager to enjoy her time on the pool deck.
“Kono has a lot of energy,” Lodewyk said. “She always has a positive influence on the team. She’s always ready to get up and cheer, get up and make a fool of herself like any leader should.”
Her enthusiasm doesn’t stop there, as she organizes team outings and invents cheers. Enthusiasm seems to be in her nature, especially when involving swimming.
Yet, as in any other athletic career, Kelly has faced setbacks. A back injury has forced her to cut back on workouts and find creative solutions to training problems, such as tying herself to a cord and swimming in place during practice.
“I’ve had so many teammates who have had to quit because of injuries,” Kono said. “I am just really grateful I haven’t had to do that.”
But in dealing with her injuries, Kono’s competitive fire and spirit always shines through.
“It’s amazing. She trains as well as she can, but she can’t do the full things that we can do,” Lodewyk said. “But yet, she gets to a meet, and she can do the starts, she can do the turns. It’s just really incredible what she can pull out when she needs to for the team.”