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All-America honors for SSHS swimmer

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Kiara Kennedy is eager to get back in the pool for South Side’s girls’ swim team after a memorable 2019 campaign saw her break three school records, capture a Nassau County championship and earn All-America honors.

“It was really an exciting year,” said Kennedy, who as a sophomore last fall won the county title in the 100-yard backstroke and placed third in the 100-yard butterfly. “I have such a blast with all the girls,” she added. “We’re a close group.”

Kennedy was named a National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association (NISCA) High School All-America in the 100-yard backstroke. She placed third in the state in the event while setting a new program record with a time of 55.50 seconds. She’s the first South Side female swimmer to earn All-America honors since Daphne Skelos, a 2006 graduate, and was one of only 32 sophomores or freshmen in the nation to receive the honor.

“I realized the potential I had in the backstroke and it put a goal in my head,” said Kennedy, who began swimming at the age of 8 and competes year-round at the club level for Long Island Aquatic.

Cyclones coach Ryan Clark said Kennedy has always possessed the basic building blocks to become a big-time swimmer. “Kiara’s been on varsity since seventh grade and by the time she graduates, she’ll be a six-time county qualifier,” Clark said. “She’s talented and so competitive. She has a great strength and conditioning training routine with her club so I concentrate on giving her sprint specific workouts. She’s taken to that training better as she’s gotten older.”

Clark said Kennedy’s success in the backstroke came quickly. As a freshman, she qualified for the state meet in the 500-yard freestyle and also competed in freestyle sprints in the county meet. In fact, the other school records she holds are in the 100 free (53.78) and 50 free (24.85.) “It was her idea to start competing in the backstroke,” he said. “She’s really excelled at it recently. She has an unbelievable start and is fast under water and on turns.”

Kennedy, who swam 57.93 in the 100 butterfly for an All-County finish, said she’s hopeful she’ll be competing for South Side in March when the Nassau girls’ swim season is supposed to begin after being postponed this fall due to Covid-19.

“I’m really hoping that it works out and we have a season,” Kennedy said. “I don’t want to think about it yet.”

Clark said Kennedy is poised for another strong season. “She’s put herself in great position and I’m cautiously optimistic we can keep the Covid numbers low and compete in March,” he said. “Kiara being a junior, it’s a big year for her for college recruitment.”