Swinging her arms to pound nails or swinging them to complete a lap in the pool, senior long distance freestyler Lindsey Kuehn of Troy, Mich., loves doing both.
The construction management major is the lone senior on Northern Michigan University’s swimming and diving team. She and her Wildcat teammates play host to Hillsdale College at 11 a.m. at the PEIF Pool on the NMU campus. Admission to the meet is free.
When she was eight years old, Kuehn was introduced to swimming by her mother, a former competitive swimmer. Kuehn has been in the water ever since.
As a youngster she joined was the Oakland Live Y’ers (OLY) in Rochester Hills, swimming with the program until she left for college. The OLY program consistently has about 200 swimmers. In 2003, it won the silver medal designation from USA Swimming and Diving as one o the top 35 swim clubs in the nation. In 2004, OLY team member Peter Vanderkaay won a gold medal at the Athens Olympic Games.
Kuehn says OLY was a “place for people who wanted to be serious about swimming and not just swim to pass the time.”
“OLY taught me how to work hard for the times I want,” she says. “It was not a place to slack around. I was swimming with a lot of talented swimmers. They pushed me every day in practice to reach the highest level that I could in swimming.”
She was also a four-year letter winner and standout swimmer at Seaholm High School. Swimming with both programs during high school meant a lot of hours in the pool, but Kuehn didn’t mind because she loved to swim and the experiences were different with each team. OLY was an intense swimming opportunity where Kuehn was expected to master her competitive skills. Seaholm had a more laid-back atmosphere where Kuehn could work on her swimming technique, but also spend time with her friends and have a good time.
“Seaholm was a fun experience. I had great bonds with the girls on the team. I have great memories of the team training trips in the summer before school starts, early morning breakfasts that the parents would make us, the team cheers and the many morning practices,” she says.
It was at Seaholm High that Kuehn began taking woodshop and computer-aided design courses. From the start, Kuehn felt at home in the workshop environment. When she began to explore colleges, she knew she wanted to keep swimming and find a program that would advance her woodworking and CAD skills. NMU’s construction management major and the Wildcat Division II swimming program became serious contenders. Kuehn visited Marquette to check out the NMU campus, the swimming program and her potential academic major. It was not only a good fit, it was love at first sight. Everything at NMUwas exactly what she wanted, which surprised her a little, definitely surprised her parents, but didn’t surprise her coach at all.
“I remember telling my coach, Karl Hodgson, that I was coming to NMU and he was excited because he went here,” she says.
Kuehn acknowledges that she’s certainly in the minority in her major, being one of the few women in the program. She’s also learned to acknowledge that she’s strong, but usually not as strong, as her peers. Neither of these factors intimidates or discourages her choice of field.
The challenges and rewards of swimming and construction management aren’t that different, says Kuehn. Both make her feel good and give her a sense of achieving something.
“Swimming is rewarding to me not just because of the best times I reach at the end of the season, but because it makes me feel good every day. I love swimming in practice and reaching a new time interval that I thought would be hard to make. It feels great when I know that I worked hard and gave it everything I could. Swimming is my escape from the troubles that come up during the day. It’s kind of like my Neverland.
“Construction is rewarding because I love the feeling I get when I reach the end result of something I accomplished, when I see the result of a class project or something I built. That’s a great feeling. “
That Kuehn has found success in this non-traditional field really shouldn’t surprise anyone. She’s not a sprinter in swimming; the 500, 1,000 and 1,650 meters are her races. In construction management, she’s going the distance there, too. She’s been training nearly all of her life to take it one stroke, one race and now one nail and measurement at a time.
“I like proving people wrong when they say that women can’t be in this industry. It’s hard work, but it’s a lot of fun. Construction is rewarding because I believe I’m making a difference in the world. I feel like I’m helping a community.”
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