MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

February 13, 2014

Sister act spurs success in the Fort Gibson pool

By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer

— Fort Gibson High senior swimmer Kyla Martin can trace her start in the sport to her older sister Hali, who was a member of the school’s three straight state championships.

This weekend, Kyla and the Class 5A No. 1 Lady Tigers travel to Jenks for the regionals Friday and Saturday in pursuit of a fourth consecutive title.

Kyla didn’t take up swimming as a sport until watching Hali compete in meets.

“I just like sports,” Kyla said. “So I was like ‘Why not give it a try.’ And so I did and worked really hard at it to become what I am now.”

Her favorite events are the freestyles. And that is where Fort Gibson coach Connie Dean says she is the strongest.

“Kyla picked it up as a sophomore,” Dean said. “She’s very strong and we kind of focus on her in the sprints. She’s such a competitor.”

And when it comes to family, Kyla is picking up where Hali left off – sort of. Her younger brother Jacob is on the boys’ team.

On the boys’ side, Dalton Martin is in a similar situation as Kyla. His younger sister Lauren is a sophomore on the girls’ team.

“Lauren and I are both really good about cheering on our brothers.” Kyla said.

Kyla also said she feels it’s an honor to pass the tradition of Fort Gibson swimming down to the next class, boys or girls.

Yeah, it’s pretty cool to be a part of that,” she said. “The leave the legacy behind of three state championships. It’s really nice to have something to leave to our younger swimmers.”

Dalton, a senior, said that he can see improvement in sister from last year to this.

“She’s seeded in the top eight in her individual events,” Dalton said. “It’s interesting the way freshmen swimmers will general do decent and then explode as a sophomore.”

While Kyla helped out her brother on occasion, Dalton said he and his sister have little contact in the pool.

“We swim in different lanes,” Dalton said. “However, we do both share the same work ethic. We work incredibly hard in practice and in meets.”

For Dalton, he was the late bloomer, having watched Lauren come up through the Tiger Sharks swimming program.

“I think she started in the second or third grade,” Dalton said. “I started swimming my freshman year. I needed to find means of exercise. The physical benefits of swimming is why I chose it.”

While the girls are trying for a state four-peat, the boys have been close the last four years. Dalton thinks this year could be the breakthrough.

“We’re going to have to do well in our relays,” he said. “Half of the team is in the top eight going into the regional meet. The other half of the team has a pretty good chance at producing at the state level. For us to place first, we are probably going to have to place first in one relay.”

When Kyla and Dalton finish their high school careers, whether it be this weekend or next weekend at the state meet, Dean knows that what this group of seniors has accomplished will be tough to follow.

“I’ve never had a senior class like this one,” Dean said. “Just across the board, both boys and girls, they’ve just had so much success. It’s going to be different without them.”