MCHS junior makes time for swimming, debate, school, hobbies |

MCHS junior makes time for swimming, debate, school, hobbies

Joshua Gordon

John Kirk, a Moffat County High School junior, sits with his feet in the MCHS pool on Wednesday. Kirk has been swimming competitively since he was 6, but said he must balance his time between the swim team, the speech and debate team and studying for his class work.

It seems wherever John Kirk goes he creates close relationships.

Kirk, a Moffat County High School junior, swims for the MCHS boys varsity swimming team. But, it may be another team he is a part of that helps him create those relationships.

"John is a phenomenal leader," swim team head coach Megan Francone said. "He is able to lead even when people don't want to be led. He sways them and motivates them in a way others can't."

The swaying and motivating skills come from Kirk's participation in the school's speech and debate team, on which he has competed for three years.

Kirk said he has definitely learned things from speech and debate he can incorporate into his everyday life.

"Speech and debate is a good, intellectual activity and it helps to strengthen thinking on your feet," Kirk said. "I learned a lot in my first couple of times out there and have improved ever since."

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Kirk said his relationship with his swimming teammates might have developed a little differently than the way his coach described.

"Our team is really tight," he said. "There is a lot of us guys in a six-lane pool, and we do all our dry-land workouts together, so we are always close. Us older swimmers also get a lot of one-on-one time with the younger guys to teach them what we know."

Kirk's first time in a pool was when he was 6 years old.

"Neither of my parents knew how to swim," he said. "We wanted to be around the water, so they put all four of us children in a class so we could be safe when we were around the water."

Kirk said the first time he swam with the Craig Sea Sharks in the summer as a kid he was hooked.

"The first club team I was on had about 70 fun people that I enjoyed being around," he said. "In the swimming club, the families got together and I just enjoyed doing it."

Francone said Kirk's height is a big advantage to his success in the pool.

"His height is definitely his biggest strength," she said. "Being tall is really helpful in the pool and when he jumps off the starting block, his hands are already halfway down the pool."

In his three years on the team, Kirk said his strongest events are the 200-yard freestyle and the 500-yard freestyle. In April, he swam the 100-yard backstroke and said he might continue working on the event as he prepares for the end of his third season.

Kirk said he knows there are some negative opinions about men swimming, but people might think differently if they competed.

"I would argue that swimming is the hardest physical sport," he said. "It is not painful, but the effort and time it takes to be good definitely has a physical strain. The mental barrier is tough to overcome because you aren't swimming with anyone else or competing with a team. It is an individual event when you are out there."

Swimming is the only sport in which Kirk competes, but only because speech and debate conflicted with other sports.

"I'm not fast running, so that kind of took baseball out," he said. "I'm a big kid, so I thought about football, but I had speech and I wasn't going to switch to football and give that up."

On the speech and debate team, Kirk competes in public forum debate with his partner, fellow junior Skyler Leonard, and individually in foreign extemporaneous debate.

Kirk said he brings a few things to the table, allowing him to succeed in debates.

"I think my ability to think on my feet and my creativity with words really helps me in the debates," he said. "Plus, I am a tall kid and look good in a suit."

Leonard said his partner's biggest attribute is his way with the judges.

"John's biggest attribute is his charisma," he said. "He can always appeal to the judges. While I deal with our opponents, he persuades the judges and sways them to our side."

Kirk and Leonard took third in public forum debate in the state tournament in March.

Leonard said their success as a team is in large part due to their long-lasting friendship.

"It has been a blast to be quite frank," he said of being Kirk's partner. "We have been friends since third grade and we work great together because we know each other so well. There is sort of an unspoken bond that we know what to do next to help each other without speaking."

Kirk said he doesn't necessarily want to pursue a career involving speech and debate, but said being part of the team will help him nonetheless.

"Speech and debate absolutely helps in a ton of career paths like lawyers and lobbyists," he said. "I don't want to be either of those, rather an engineer, but being on the team helped me learn how to structure a sentence and get people to believe what I say."

On top of swimming practice and speech and debate, Kirk is also taking college courses.

The junior completed four courses last semester and is currently taking another four courses this semester, for a total of 17 credits this year.

"The hardest classes at the high school weren't challenging me," he said. "I wanted to be more prepared for college and push myself more. The main thing I have to do is balance my time well."

Still, Kirk, like any high school student, has hobbies he enjoys in his free time.

"I like to work on motors," he said. "I rebuild motors and I put one on a small bike. I am a gear head by trait and enjoy it. Besides that, I just like to hang out with buddies."

Kirk still has one more year to be part of the MCHS swimming and speech and debate teams. But, when he does move onto college, he said he would continue with the activity he has been doing the longest — swimming.

"There isn't a huge field for speech and debate in college," he said. "With swimming, I look forward to competing at the next level. It may not be a division I school, but it could be intramural or club swimming."

For Francone, describing John as a person involves resorting to an old cliché.

"John is John," she said. "Anyone who knows him knows he is extremely intelligent and accomplishes anything he works at. I know it is a cliché, but John is truly someone who can do anything he wants."

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