Regan Kology confessed she was “not the most athletically inclined kid.” She didn’t like to sweat, preferred tank tops to T-shirts, and refused to wear sneakers.
Yet Regan had tried nearly every sport available in Chatham, often with her father Kevin Kology as a volunteer coach. Soccer, basketball, even tee-ball, Regan rarely lasted until the end of the season.
Kology’s friend Sophie Sitar convinced her — “I really forced her” — to come to practice for the Canoe Brook Country Club’s swim team when they were both 8 years old. Kology initially refused, but after a persuasive phone call between moms, agreed to tag along just once.
The problem? Kology couldn’t swim. She pulled herself across the 25-meter pool by the lane lines. The suits, the caps, “writing your events on your hand” like Sitar did at meets? Never going to happen.
But Gail Kology, Regan’s mother, signed her up for a few lessons anyway. And Regan slowly began to emerge from behind her coloring books and notepads.
“I was not the kid everyone was saying, ‘She’s got real potential,’ ” said Kology, a Chatham senior and the 2013-14 All Daily Record Swimmer of the Year.
“But when we’d be going to the pool for a regular summer day, I’d be the one asking my mom for lessons to get better, even though I was 8 and my priority should’ve been having fun with my friends. … I found myself enjoying the sport more than any other sport — and I hated sports. I saw something in it, and I saw something in myself when I was swimming, that I hadn’t felt in any other sport.”
Kology tried out for Elite Swim Club, where she met new coach Leighann Marcelliano Day — both on their first day. They bonded almost immediately, Marcelliano showing the thoughtful, serious Kology “the fun side of things,” and teaching her “mentally, how to be an athlete.” Kology has continued to work on both the physical and emotional sides of swimming through several teams and multiple coaches, growing to the point where she “can’t imagine what it feels like not to get in the pool and go.”
Said Sitar, “She knows what she wants, and she works as hard as she can until she gets it.”
Kology won both Morris County distance titles for four straight years, lowering her own meet records to a converted 1:52.48 in the 200 free and 4:19.65 in the 500 free. She was also part of the Cougars’ winning 200 and 400 free relays at the county meet.
At the NJSIAA Meet of Champions, she finished second in the 500 free — and chose to forgo the 200 free, where she’d qualified first in the consolation final, to focus on relays. Kology helped Chatham’s 400 free relay win the consolation final in 3:35.53, the sixth-fastest time overall and quickest in the Daily Record area this winter, and was also part of the 200 free relay which was second in the B-final.
A co-captain this winter, Kology will graduate with an undefeated Chatham senior class. She has been part of four county team championships, and four NJSIAA Public B victories as well. This winter, Sitar was one of her teammates for the first time since that first summer at Canoe Brook.
“She laughs to make me feel less awkward about my lame coaches’ jokes, who says ‘We got this’ when everyone’s getting nervous,” Cougars head coach Frank DiGiacomo said. “She stops stressing as soon as the meet starts, because she knows we have what it takes to accomplish everything. … She’ll be swimming and swimming and swimming, and if she gets enough warm-up in, you can see her stroke smooth out. That’s when she stops stressing. You see a complete calm fall over her, because she knows she’s ready to go, and everybody’s ready to go.”
A self-described “100 percent math nerd,” Kology is heading to Harvard in the fall. Volunteer experiences with children with special needs have made her consider a career in child psychology. However, she was also influenced by a junior-year English class which stressed meditative writing — a practice Kology has continued.
Kology also takes to the roads to clear her head. Originally inspired by Somerset Hills YMCA swim coach Peter Barry, Kology was “avidly against” the required cross training. But, like with her laps in the water, she set a goal and has moved from 20 minutes to 30 to a full hour. Tying sneakers and popping in headphones has “turned into something I’m passionate about.”
“The reason we’ve been able to swim so fast is the training, obviously, but it’s also the way we support each other and root for each other,” Kology said. “It’s competition, but it’s healthy competition, wanting the other person to do well and have the same success as you, because you’re going for that common goal. … Swimming helped me be confident enough in myself and my abilities to lead other people. That’s why I’ve come to love the sport so much.”