Swimming In International Waters

Spanish National Team coach Marcelo Cuartero and Kendra Kline

By Lauren Leary
Special to GoHolyCross.com

The ability for a third-year college student to immerse him or herself in a foreign culture is a common, but inevitably difficult task. Kendra Kline, a senior on the women's swim team was faced with the challenge of settling into the culture of Palma, Spain for a year, while continuing her current role as a student-athlete. 

Originally from Queensbury, N.Y., Kline followed in the footsteps of two of her three older siblings and began to swim at the early age of four. She continued to train with her YMCA and USA Swimming club team (the Glens Falls Gators) through her high school years and trained to swim every event, but was eventually recruited to swim breaststroke for coach Barry Parenteau on the Hill. When Kline, a Spanish major concentrating in Latin America studies, decided to study abroad for her junior year at Holy Cross, she knew that finding a city where she could both swim competitively and attend classes at a university would be a difficult task. "I knew that I needed to train so I could come back senior year and swim well at Holy Cross," she says. "Palma, in Mallorca, Spain offered a program through the Spanish National team [Club Natacion Palma] with whom I could train, so I thought it would be a great fit. I knew Aidan McGrath (a 2011 Holy Cross graduate and swim team alumnus) had done the program the year before but it was still really intimidating to join the team. Going into the tryouts I had been told that they had 2-4 Olympians who had already made Olympic cut times, so I was really grateful when coach [Marcelo] Cuartero told me he had a spot for me."

Though the National team was supportive of Kline's attempt to fit in with the Spanish culture, she admits that the transition was initially difficult. "There were no university sports, so many of the people on my team were being paid to swim without the additional stress of taking classes," she says. "Their emphasis was strictly swimming, so for me, finding a balance between academics and swimming was really tough."

Though she lived with a host mother in the center of the city, Kline had limited time to explore her surroundings. Her daily schedule consisted of 2-4 hours of class (taught in Spanish) in the morning at the Universidad de las Islas Baleares (University of the Baleraric Islands), a 30 minute walk to practice, a two hour practice in the pool - with additional dryland workouts three days a week - and a three and a half hour practice with dryland training every Saturday. The strenuous schedule eventually caught up with her, however, as she had to take two weeks off in the winter due to an illness. "The training was year round in an outdoor, fifty meter pool," she says. "I wasn't used to swimming outside in the winter and swimmers would often have to get out of the water because of the low temperatures. This made the training much more difficult, because I was trying so hard to stay healthy while already swimming more yardage than I was used to." Kline eventually made a full recovery and as the temperatures rose in the spring months, was able to more easily train with the team until her return to the States in June.

Kline maintains that the discipline she learned from this experience, however, has helped her in her return to Worcester for her final year of collegiate swimming. "It was a great transition coming back to school," she says. "I have appreciated the Holy Cross team even more because I couldn't compete for points in Spain (due to NCAA competition regulations). It was so nice to come back and be part of a team where I could make a difference in the score of a meet. Last year I worked so hard that I may have overtrained, but at Holy Cross the practices are more specific to the events each person swims. Everyone did the same workout as one another in Spain, so it's been great to be able to focus on my own events again."

Kendra Kline

Kline also enjoyed returning back to the comfort and familiarity of swimming in the United States. "I thought going into my experience in Palma that swimming would be universal, but there are things that I really had to think about and adjust to," she says. "The challenges forced me to really use my Spanish because I had to communicate with my teammates and coach and had to learn their terminology. My coach needed to know if I was sick, if my muscles were hurting, etc. It's truly been great to be able to return to such a familiar atmosphere at Holy Cross."

The return to the States reunited Kline with both of her major support systems - her family and the Holy Cross swim team. She credits much of her success in the pool to her supportive parents and siblings, who are all involved in the swimming world, but also maintains that her teammates and coach have helped her to progress as well. "My parents have been a huge factor in my swimming career," she says. "They've supported me through every meet and even came to a meet in Spain. I am so grateful for everyone that has supported me, though. Returning to Holy Cross has made me realize that my teammates are also like a family. For me, the best part of college meets are the relays because you want to do better for the team rather than just for yourself, as it was in USA Swimming. It's also nice to know that [coach] Barry is not just a coach but a friend to everyone, too. I feel comfortable going to him with problems and he is the first person to talk to me when I'm frustrated. Swimming has always been an outlet that has really helped me clear my head - especially when I know I have such a strong team behind me."

This season has thus far been Kline's best for in-season times. She has scored points by picking up third, fourth and fifth place finishes in meets and is even close to her Patriot League Championship times, which are her personal best. She hopes to finish the year strong at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., on February 16-18 at the league championships, as it will be the last time she will compete in collegiate swimming. Kline will miss the sport but plans to continue swimming, as she says, "It is really hard to think about, but I don't think I'll ever stop swimming, especially competing in triathlons and open water events. It's a chapter that I don't want to end in my life, and I'm going to miss the friendships and bonding time I have had with my teammates in and out of the pool the most. It has been so exciting to be with them in such a great atmosphere these past few years, and we've all definitely formed strong, long-lasting relationships."

After graduation in May, Kline plans to work in the medical field with Spanish translation. She is currently applying to different nursing and physician's assistant programs, and is confident that her backgrounds in both Spanish and swimming will remain influential in her life after Holy Cross.