By Jenelyn Russo
Photo Credit: Bill Alkofer
Matthew Kuehl got his start in swimming in a fairly unconventional way, through the suggestion of his then baseball coach.
"I started playing baseball when I was about seven, and when I was nine, my baseball coach recommended I join the local swim team because I was pretty bad at baseball," says Kuehl with a smile. "I stuck with the swimming."
As a senior on Servite High School's swim team, Kuehl specializes in the 200-yard individual medley and 200-yard and 400-yard freestyle relays. It is the simplicity of swimming that drives his love for the sport.
"All you need is focus and hard work, and you'll beat the clock," says Kuehl. "As a part of that process, you need to dive deep into yourself to see how hard you're willing to work and focus."
It is that same work ethic that earned Kuehl and his relay teammates the Trinity League record in the 200-yard freestyle relay last season. He acknowledges that the Friars may not be the "most skilled group on paper," but their commitment has paid dividends and driven Kuehl's personal goals for the season.
"My goal is to be the biggest asset to the team that I can," says the 18-year old. "As a team, especially in the freestyle relays, I want to continue the success we had last year."
Kuehl's mentoring style reflects Servite's servant leadership approach and the school's commitment to the formation of each person, beyond their academics and athletics.
"Matt is an amazing person and it has been a privilege to coach him the last four years," saysServite aquatics director, Andy Coffman. "Honorable, hardworking, smart and tough are just a few of the adjectives that describe Matt. His leadership has been priceless, both verbally and by example."
In addition to swimming for the Friars, Kuehl was the starting goalkeeper for Servite's 2018 CIF-SS Division 3 championship water polo team. It was a memorable season for Kuehl that also included earning All-Trinity League and All-CIF honors.
"Winning CIF was by far my biggest athletic achievement," says Kuehl. "It was such an amazing experience because I did it with my best friends."
The Placentia resident is a member of Servite's student section, The Asylum, and enjoys hunting and fishing when he's not training. He is also a participant in the school's SanbergInternational Leadership Program, which includes traveling to China for two summers and learning Mandarin.
With plans to study international business, Kuehl credits his time at Servite, the example of his parents and his studies abroad for shaping his faith and giving him a fresh perspective.
"I've been a Catholic all my life, and something I've experienced at Servite is that everyone, whether they are Catholic or not, cares about your faith life and how that affects you," says Kuehl. "Even though not everyone is the same as you at Servite, we all care about the same thing."