A misunderstanding turned into a stroke of good luck for Kevin Noldy.
Interested in taking up swimming in elementary school, club coaches, deceived by his unusual height at his age, put him into the wrong age classification. The novice, despite his advantages in size, struggled against more experienced swimmers, but never let the frustration during and after practice discourage him.
As he improved, and the error corrected, Noldy finished stronger than he started. He faced and conquered that small bit of adversity and turned it into the motivation that drives him to be one of the outstanding competitors in the Lackawanna League.
This season, the 6-foot-4 junior, earned some quality wins, competed in invitational events and eyes the upcoming District 2 Class 2A Championships.
“I was a decent age-group swimmer, nothing incredible,” Noldy said. “I was put in the wrong age group when I was 8 because I looked older. Those first few practices, you know, I never did swimming before so I was like I was drowning. I stayed in that group for half of the first year. There was some complaining involved and my mom used to tell me to just say something, but I decided to stick with it.
“After all the rough practices, once they got me in the right age group, I was doing extremely well, so that was really nice. That’s one of the main reasons I am still with it.”
Noldy lives in Hop Bottom in Susquehanna County and attended Mountain View before transferring to Elk Lake where his father, Kevin, is a teacher.
When he decided to start club swimming, the Abington Club was the nearest and his mother, Mary, and father took turns getting him to practices with travel covering close to 40 to 45 minutes one way.
Despite the early struggles, Noldy enjoyed the sport. He looked forward to the practices and the improvement he showed.
“There was a lot of time devoted to swimming,” Noldy said. “A lot of after-school practices and a lot of travel. But, the sense of accomplishment I had with each swim was great, and I really enjoyed the team aspect.”
Once Noldy enrolled at Elk Lake, he joined both the cross country team, which is a traditional state power, and the swim team. The two sports benefitted the other as he built endurance with his running workouts that established a strong base at the start of the swim season.
In addition, he started training at the Greater Scranton YMCA and made great strides.
As a freshman, Noldy placed fourth in the 100 backstroke with a time of 59.61 seconds to earn a medal and finished ninth in the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 53.37. He also won a fourth-place medal in the 400 free relay and a sixth-place medal as part of the 200 free relay.
Last winter, he won a bronze medal in the 100 back with a time of 56.21 and bumped up to a fifth-place medal in the 100 free with a time of 50.07.
This season, while unusual and delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic, Noldy and his teammates had to accept a new approach to training. Unable to put in the yardage base in a pool, he took to dryland workouts and a weight and body strength training regimen.
It resulted in, even without the grueling endurance practices, a solid regular season against the clock.
“He is very resilient,” Elk Lake coach Jehiel Boner said. “Right before Christmas we were shut down and we gave the kids a dryland challenge and they were doing it at home and would email me back and provide feedback. The whole team has been doing a lot more dryland and strength training workouts and it is great to see how much strength and muscle they have put on and how that is translating into success in the water.
“Kevin’s goal was to build strength, he has, and he is still graceful in the water. He has the conditioning from cross country, so I think he has gotten a lot stronger and it all will help him in the long run.”
In dual meets, Noldy, 16, sometimes takes the opportunity to compete in the 500 free for workouts. His time of 58.78 for the 100 back in the first meet led the performances for the event in the league. He posted a time of 53.08 in the 100 free, had a winning time of 1:57.59 in the 200 free and had a 23.49 in the 50 free in meets that followed.
At a very competitive invitational at the Keystone Aquatic Center in Carlisle, he had a pair of 12th-place finishes in the 500 free (5:19.05) and 200 back (2:04.23), and finished 13th in the 100 free and 14th in the 200 IM.
Now he is setting his sights on a good district meet.
“Last year was a really nice season and I managed to drop times in my events and lower my backstroke time,” Noldy said. “The backstroke is one of my favorite events. This season, I have still been dropping times and I am doing as well as I can in the season and can’t wait for the championships to see where I can place.”
Joby Fawcett has covered high school sports — including football, girls and boys volleyball, girls and boys tennis, girls and boys swimming, boys basketball, girls and boys track and field, and girls and boys lacrosse — for 22 years. The High School Sports Blog offers deeper insights plus statistical and historical information for fans and features photos, videos and graphics along with Top 5 polls for tennis and volleyball. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9100 x5367; @sportsTT