The 2003 state swimming and diving championships continue to pay dividends for Soldotna senior Abby Kiffmeyer.
Kiffmeyer won state titles in the 100-yard butterfly and set a state record in winning the 100 backstroke at the meet. She was named female swimmer of the year.
Kiffmeyer also got the idea in her head that day that she wanted to swim at an NCAA Division I level. Sohail Marey, Kiffmeyer's coach at Soldotna, said Kiffmeyer's times in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke at state were enough to catch the eye of Division I coaches.
Monday at the library at Soldotna High School, Kiffmeyer harvested the seeds planted at that state meet by signing a national letter of intent to swim at Purdue University, a Division I school in West Lafayette, Ind.
"Ever since I started swimming, my goal was to get a scholarship to college," said Kiffmeyer, who started swimming at age 9 with Marey as her coach. "It was not until the state meet this year that I decided I wanted to go Division I."
Kiffmeyer will get 50 percent of her tuition paid for at Purdue. In order to bump that up to a full ride, Purdue coach Cathy Wright-Eger told Kiffmeyer she has to final at the Big Ten meet in the 100 butterfly. She would have to improve her time by a half-second to final. Marey is confident she can accomplish that goal.
Kiffmeyer will be the fourth Soldotna swimmer in Division I next year, joining Lucas Petersen at the University of Minnesota, Joshua Gemmell at Arizona State University and Jenna Syverson at the University of New Mexico.
"This is not our goal," Marey said of getting swimmers to the Division I level. "To see one of your former swimmers get to the Division I level and have success is nice for any coach, though."
An official visit to Purdue in early March sold Kiffmeyer on Purdue.
"It was mostly because of the team and the coach," Kiffmeyer said. "I really fit in with the team.
"One of the biggest things for me was finding a family atmosphere. As soon as I met the team, I knew I wanted to be there."
This made Marey feel good about Purdue.
"As a coach, the No. 1 concern is academics," he said. "She'll have a great network supporting her."
In Kiffmeyer, Marey said the Boilermakers are getting a versatile swimmer who can not only swim the butterfly and backstroke, but also sprint in freestyle and help fill in on relays.
Kiffmeyer, who thanked Marey for all his work as her coach, said she may major in psychology and sociology at Purdue.
She expects the academics to be a big step up from what she is used to at Soldotna, but Wright-Eger has a reputation for producing solid student-athletes.
Since Wright-Eger joined the Purdue staff in 1987, 156 Purdue swimmers have earned Academic All-Big Ten honors.
Kiffmeyer said the final good thing about Purdue is that it is in the Midwest. Kiffmeyer has a bunch of family in Minnesota that will get a chance to watch her swim at the University of Minnesota, which also is a member of the Big Ten.
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