Whether Ayrton Kasemets is training year-round to perfect his technique and time or coaching children, he feels most at home in the pool.
"If you ask any of the coaches or the parents, they will ask me if I live there because I'm always at the pool," he said. "I feel I can be completely myself when I'm at the pool swimming."
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The Mundelein senior has seen his training pay off and has earned many accolades in his swimming career as a Mustang. He is quick to credit support from his coaches, teammates, family and friends and the school program, which drives him to be his best.
"It's exciting to know I've contributed to the success of the program that has gone so far," Kasemets said. "The history of Mundelein aquatics, both boys and girls, has inspired me to really strive for excellence and strive to be the best."
Kasemets began swimming competitively at age 7 when he joined the Mundelein Mustangs Swim Club, a year-round competitive program. The schedule demands practicing every day except Sunday. In the summer, he practices twice a day.
"It does get difficult by the middle of the season, but we have a meet almost every single weekend," he said. "That always lightens the mood because you'll see how much you're improving. I love going there every day. There is not a single practice that I dread going to."
A varsity swimmer at Mundelein since his freshman year, Kasemets continues to see practice as an opportunity to get better. The key, he added, is being open to new ideas.
"My junior year, (Coach Rahul) Sethna told us what the key to breaststroke is and it's stroke count, counting the strokes every 25," he said. "After I realized that, I really started to work on holding a consistent stroke count and I started to improve more drastically."
Sethna, who also has coached Kasemets on the water polo team, said Kasemets has proved his dedication.
"He's always improved whether he's gotten stronger and better with stroke technique," Sethna said. "He finds ways to make himself a better swimmer."
Sethna said Kasemets leads by example.
"As many seniors graduated last year, it was his turn to take the role of leader," he said. "He has helped bring up the level of other swimmers on our team."
As team captain, Kasemets said he strives to provide a role model just as he had while also stressing the importance and the fun to work as a team.
"It's exciting as captain to see the improvement the younger guys go through and as the season ends, how together we are," he said. "It creates awesome memories you'll remember the rest of your life."
Kasemets also has used his leadership skills to coach. In addition to competing, Kasemets also coaches 10-to-12-year olds through the Mundelein Mustangs Swim Club. And since his sophomore year, he has helped coach the STARS Special Olympics Swim Team, made up of athletes ages 14 to 55 who have cognitive disabilities.
"It's so cool to see you can help people improve and achieve their goals," Kasemets said. "It is so heartwarming. There is a special place in your heart for that."
Kasemets said he is proud to be part of Mundelein's swimming program, which has seen the graduation of Bryan Wiener (Lewis University) and Connor Black (Stanford University) the last two years. In 2012, as a sophomore, Kasemets swam a leg on Mundelein's state runner-up 200-yard medley relay team.
"Those are top two swimmers in our program," Kasemets said of Wiener and Black. "Those two guys have helped make me who I am today."
Named after Brazilian race car driver Ayrton Senna, Kasemets continues to show speed in the pool. At the Lake County Invite, he took second in the 200 IM (1:58.78) and grabbed first in the 100 breaststroke (58.51), winning by five seconds. Last week, he broke the pool record at Libertyville, swimming the 100 breaststroke in 58.85.
His progress also has been evident as he prepares for the state meet following an eighth-place finish in the 100 breaststroke last year. At the Hinsdale Central Invite meet earlier this year, Kasemets swam against defending state champion Jae Park of New Trier, and they tied.
"That was the only time I got to swim against the state champion all season, and I think I stepped up to the challenge," Kasemets said. "It's looking really good going up to state this year.
"There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about it (the state meet)," he added. "I visualize what it will come down to and what I have to do in order to be the first one who touches that wall and hopefully be the state champion."
Focusing on the team, Kasemets hopes Mundelein also will qualify to send at least one relay team down to state.
"We really want to send a team back down to state because we have almost every year as long as I've been here," he said. "We really want to repeat that."
Kasemets plans to continue his swimming career at Oakland University next fall. Visiting the school, he was attracted to how cohesive the team was and the trust they put in the coaches.
"I also saw they train hard," he said. "They work hard and swim hard, and they always want to be the best."