Even as he stands on the precipice of historic achievement, Edward Kim turns the discussion to more benevolent goals.
The athlete poised to become only the second male swimmer in Washington to win eight individual state titles at the Class 4A state meet in February would rather talk about his role as a team captain at Eastlake High in Sammamish, and what that role means.
“The thing I enjoy most about high-school swimming, it’s more of a team thing,” Kim said. “I’m not just swimming for myself. Even at the Olympic level, the coaches talk about that once you’re on the team, you bond so quickly. They all emphasize you swim faster when you swim for someone else.”
Whether that team is the United States, Harvard — where Kim has committed for next fall — or pushing toward the 4A state meet with Eastlake, the team trumps the individual accolades, Kim said.
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Don’t misunderstand. The seventh and eighth titles of his high school career remain an aspiration.
“I want to go out with a blast, leave my mark,” Kim said. “Getting two more titles definitely would go in that category. But it’s not just about the two titles, but Eastlake as a team.”
The school’s highest-ever finish at state is fifth place.
“But this year, we could do great as a team,” Kim said. “As captain, I look at the team as a whole. This could be our best year at state.”
Winning individually, of course, would facilitate a big finish for the team.
If Kim does, as expected, add two more championships to his tally, he will join Ethan Hallowell of Eastside Catholic as the only boys to win eight titles in their high-school careers. Washington has held a boys state meet since 1933.
The girls meets have been held since the early 1970s. In that span, four girls have won eight individual titles.
Swimmers can compete in two individual events per season. Winning eight would mean, then, that every time Kim got into the pool for an individual event at Federal Way Aquatics Center for state, he came out a winner.
“This has been quite an experience, not only for the Eastlake swim team but also for the school,” Eastlake coach Kate Agnew said. “He’s brought a lot of attention to the sport of swimming at this school. Normally, you get that in football and basketball. But with Edward at the level he is…”
Eastlake swimming gets a lot of attention around campus.
Which events Kim will compete in to attempt his feat in February, not even he knows. Kim abandoned the goal of winning each of the eight individual events in his career a year ago.
He’s still won five different events in three years. Kim repeated in the 50-yard freestyle as a junior after winning it as a freshman. It’s his only repeat event to date, but Kim may be tempted to go back to it one more time.
Kim cut an incredible three-tenths of a second off his 50 free time between the Friday prelims and his final, winning time of 20.11 seconds last February. That time puts Ugur Taner’s state record of 20.02, which has stood since 1992, in play.
But Kim’s decision on events won’t come for a while.
“I make my decision right after KingCos,” Kim said, “based on how I’m feeling for the season up until that point, and how do I feel about each stroke.”
Kim’s diversity makes him different from Hallowell, who swam for the Crusaders from 2008 to 2011. Hallowell stuck solely with the freestyles, winning the 100 free all four years, plus two each of the 50 and 200 frees.
Kim has won the 100 backstroke, the 100 butterfly, two 50 frees, the 100 free and 200 free. Yet he would rather speak about his being a senior captain and helping his teammates get better and on to state themselves.
“Edward doesn’t always appreciate the attention,” Agnew said. “He’s always a little shy, especially getting up in front of people. But he deserves it.”