As a freshman two years ago, KT Kustritz ’20 was disqualified from a breaststroke leg of an individual medley prelim at the NCAA championships because a judge determined—incorrectly, she insists—that something about the way she’d executed the stroke’s complicated turn sequence broke the rules. “It was a good chunk of points we missed out on,” she says. “I would rather do everything safe in order not to get DQ’d.”
The episode made her careful, but it hardly slowed her down. In March, Kustritz won the 100 and 200 breaststroke and swam a leg on Denison’s winning 200 medley relay team; including the 100 and 200 breast titles she clinched as a sophomore, Kustritz is now a five-time NCAA champion and 20-time All-American. Thanks to a naturally efficient stroke, Kustritz says she’s always been fast in the event but notes that hitting the weights since arriving in Granville helped her go from great to dominant. Here, she breaks down the combination of technique, strength, and will that has made her a champion.
For Kustritz, the key to “nailing” a start is coming off the block fast (of course), keeping her body streamlined, and then relying on her legs to power her through the water. Maintaining good form and a strong kick will set the tone for the entire race.
Unique to the breaststroke, the pullout is a complex combination that powers a swimmer after each touch of the wall. As Kustritz describes it: “underwater dolphin kick, two-arm pulldown, bring your arms underneath your body, one breaststroke kick.” Efficiency is vital: “You want to get the most out of that pullout.”
The Last Lap:
“I always tell myself I have a little bit more in the tank,” Kustritz says of her mindiset after the final turn. The key is not getting frantic in her stroke: “If my tempo’s too high, I’m not really pulling any water,” she says—and focusing on her kick. Breaststrokers win with their legs, and Kustritz’s kick is arguably her greatest strength.
How does she go even faster next year? By spending part of the summer training with the University of California swim team, the defending Division I national champions. Kustritz contacted a number of elite D-I programs about off-season training, ultimately convincing the Golden Bears she was serious enough to deserve a spot in their pool. Say Kustritz, “I just want to learn what people do at that level.”