How did Chase Kinney become the best girls swimmer in Stark County history? How did she get the name Chase? Here’s a detailed look at the classy state swim champion who concluded her Jackson career with a splash Saturday.
Some great performers are eluded by huge audiences.
“My So-Called Life,” an ABC TV series featuring a bright, reflective high school girl named Angela Chase, was canceled on May 15, 1995.
Chase Augusta Kinney, whose first name traces partly to the Angela Chase character — call it the power of suggestion — was born two months earlier. She grew to be a star in a sport, swimming, whose audience is limited.
A bright, reflective high school girl, Kinney’s long-running series at Jackson ended Saturday.
What an exit.
She lowered the OHSAA Division I state-meet record she had set a day earlier by repeating as champion in the 50-yard freestyle. She broke the Division I meet record in the 100-yard free in Friday’s prelims and matched it exactly in winning a second state title Saturday.
Certain critics hail “My So-Called Life” as the best school drama in TV history. Kinney is in certain best-ever discussions, but rather than wearing out that theme, let’s get one thing straight.
It wasn’t easy being a girl named Chase.
“She struggled with that name,” says her mother, Ann. “People thought it was a boy’s name.
“A teacher might be addressing a group of boys and say, ‘Which one of you is Chase? ... Oh, you’re over there with the girls.’”
She grew into it. As an athlete, she became a racer; the name became an apt metaphor.
“She is very driven,” Ann Kinney said Saturday while waiting in line for extra state-meet tickets.
Nice girls finish first. That’s one thing that strikes everybody who gets to know the No. 1 girls swimmer in Stark County history — one of the best ever in Ohio.
“Chase is such a nice person,” said R.J. Van Almen, a man about town in local swimming.
Van Almen was on the C.T. Branin Natatorium pool deck clutching a stopwatch Kinney had just set on fire. She was getting mobbed by her teammates after one of the record swims.
Success never went to Kinney’s head. It made her headstrong about finding more. It left her wary of narrowing her soul into a lane eight feet wide and 25 yards long.
“I always have wanted to have a balanced life,” she says. “I never wanted to get burned out doing one thing.”
She used to play softball and soccer. She has been on Jackson’s cross country team for four years. She went out for track. She made friends in and out of sports.
After thousands of hours in the pool, though, Chase wouldn’t be Chase without water. She is fired up about swimming for Big Ten power Wisconsin. Training for the Badgers will be a bear.
Page 2 of 3 - “Swimming will be serious all the time,” she said, as if knowing she will miss the pace of high school sometimes.
Jackson coach Matt Ziders guesses she will be fine. She seeks balance. He sees it.
“Chase is such a well-grounded person,” Ziders said. “She really encourages her teammates. She’s always had their backs, whether it was a JV swimmer or varsity.
“As a competitor, she’s really driven. She always knows a lot about who she has to beat.”
Chase’s parents, Tom and Ann, met by chance.
He played high school soccer in Landisville, Pa., an hour outside Philadelphia, where he wound up going to medical school, at Drexel.
She competed in volleyball, swimming and track at Timken High School — she was Ann Perry then — and was on the track team at the University of Akron.
Tom did his residency at Akron General Hospital, which led to his start as an emergency-room doctor at Aultman Hospital. Ann worked in Aultman’s genetics lab.
The county used to have a series of adult athletic competitions called the Corporate Cup. Tom and Ann struck up a relationship as teammates on Aultman’s Corporate Cup volleyball team.
They married and had four children. Chase was the first, followed by Sam, now a sophomore at Jackson; Gigi, an eighth-grader, and Ted, who is in sixth grade.
Chase was a little girl when she began swim lessons at the North Canton YMCA. She nagged her parents about joining the Nemesis racing team, but the answer was “no” at first. Ted was a baby. Life was hectic for a growing family.
She chased that “yes” until she got it.
“I think she was 9 when she said, ‘I’m going to try to make it to the Zone 5 state meet,’ ” Tom Kinney said. “I thought something like, good luck with that.
“Then she made it, and I said, ‘Wow.’
“She was not a child prodigy from the start, but she was a good little swimmer who kept improving.”
Her first zone meet was at Bowling Green State University. She reached a national meet in Florida when she was 12.
“As she moved through high school,” Tom Kinney said, “she got stronger.
“Her technique changed. She became more muscular. You could see her in sprints almost getting on top of the water.
“It’s hard to explain.”
Is she the best high school girls swimmer Stark County has seen? It’s not a hard question for Van Almen.
“Oh, definitely,” he said. “And when you consider how well she has done in cross country and track, I don’t think I’ve seen any athlete like her in this county.”
Page 3 of 3 - Jim Starrett, a long-time area coach and the assistant director of the state swim meet, agreed with Van Almen on two scores. One, Kinney is the county’s best girls swimmer ever. Two, Kim Hillen and Kim Hanson, GlenOak swimmers from the 1970s and 1980s, respectively, are the next names in the discussion.
“Chase was a state champion in the 50 last year,” Starrett said. “To drop nearly a second from her time this year ... wow.
“I think Wisconsin got a real find.”
Those who followed Chase Kinney will remember a likable champion who won with class.
“She is very reserved,” Dr. Tom Kinney said. “If there’s anything she doesn’t like, it’s a braggart. She absolutely doesn’t like a showboat athlete.”
Ironically, Chase quotes one of the all-time showboats, Muhammad Ali, on her Twitter page: “A winner is someone who works to become a champion all the time, even when no one is watching.”
The second most accomplished girls swimmer in the county this year happens to be Kinney’s teammate, Elizabeth “Biz” Graeff. They grew up together at the North Canton Y and then on the Jackson team.
“She’s always so supportive,” Graeff said. “She’s one of my best friends. I love her so much.”
It’s not all about the swimming. The part that is? Wow.