Kaitlyn Dobler sets national record, wins two states for Aloha
The record Kaitlyn Dobler so doggedly pursued throughout her illustrious senior season was within sight, 50 meters into the final race of her high school career.
The Aloha all-timer, the girls' swimming legend with the warm smile and team-first beliefs, flipped over at the turn of the 100-yard breaststroke and dug deep. At stake? Not another Class 6A state championship. That was decided and clinched at the turn. In the balance dangled the national high school breaststroke record. This was not the end all be all for Dobler, who has already done so much and will continue to achieve unreal heights moving forward. But what better way to bookend one of the best high school careers in state history than delivering a timeless performance, going out with no stone unturned?
With the crowd giving her juice and her head coach Lisa Leslie providing the poolside passion, Dobler swam her way into immortality, smashing the national mark with a 58.35 finish at Tualatin Hills Aquatic Center on Feb. 22.
"I couldn't have gotten here without everyone who has supported me," Dobler said. "I really appreciate everything that I've been given. It's really cool, especially with so many people here to support me. I'm really thankful for them. I was really glad to accomplish my goal and finish it off on a high note."
Dobler doubled up her state medal count with a win in the 50 freestyle a few events before the 100 breaststroke. The USC signee dropped time in the 50 (22.30), which Dobler said gave her positive momentum heading into her last event. Dobler said she was a little bit nervous beforehand but just focused on having fun and not the time.
Over the years Leslie and Dobler have forged a close partnership that's blossomed more so into friendship. Leslie has been there every step of the journey. And as her star pupil swiftly expanded her strokes across the water with the record close enough to touch, Leslie's voice cut through the din of the crowd to Dobler's ears in lane four. As Leslie's decibel level rose with each action from the side of the pool, so did Dobler's sense of anticipation.
"I knew I had a chance…that I was almost there," Dobler said with a smile. "It was really motivating. I could pick out (Leslie's) voice specifically."
Technically, Dobler knew everything she needed to execute. But to make history, Dobler's team of coaches told her she had to go with her "gut and her will".
"Swim from your heart, swim for yourself," Leslie said. "She did everything with the team in mind. And even though she's always been about the team, today was about her. We were there for her and proud no matter what. It all came down to her. This is her achievement, what she set out to do. That's the most important thing."
When the record was official, Leslie sprung into the air and hugged every Aloha administrator in attendance. The crowd gave Dobler a standing ovation as Leslie scampered over the pool deck to the lane, leaned over and shared a warm, but watery embrace as Dobler soaked in the moment in her patented lane five. Dobler broke the national mark that was once 58.40, set by Emily Weiss of Indiana two years ago.
"It was the perfect storm on a perfect day," Leslie said. "It's always been there. It's always been in her, but there was no pressure of any kind. No matter what she touches and where she touches, we're so proud of her. She's done the work. She has the mindset and she has the will. She has the world at her feet."
Dobler reset her own OSAA records in the 100 breast and 50 free. She closed out her career with seven first-place medals: four in the breastroke and three in the 50 free. Now, the Warrior senior will turn her attention to the United States Olympic Trials in June. The ultimate champion, the ultimate teammate who was Aloha's leading light in so many ways and will help inspire another wave of Warriors as the years go on.
"Kaitlyn is more than an athlete of a lifetime," Leslie said. "Not everybody is as blessed and lucky as we have been because Kaitlyn has always been about 'team' and not herself. She is the athlete any team would dream of having at any given point because of who she is. Special in the water? That speaks for itself. Always has. It's the special outside of the water that takes her above athletes of her caliber on so many levels. It's who she is."
For more on the Class 6A state championship meet, please visit www.beavertonvalleytimes.com.
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