Haley Kirtland, a current senior and captain of the Berkeley High School (BHS) swim team, holds seven BHS records — five individual and two relay — and is the first BHS swimmer to ever compete at state championships. She got her first record as part of a relay at the league championships her freshman year. “When I was younger I didn’t really want the attention associated with [breaking records], but now when I take a step back and think about how much of a history this team has, it’s something I’m proud and humbled to have done,” she said.
“I think it’s an honor, and I don’t think it’s just me who did it.” Last year, Kirtland finished 6th in North Coast Section (NCS) in the 100 meter freestyle, allowing her to swim the event at states as the 19th seed, meaning she was the 19th fastest high school swimmer in that event in the state of California. At this year’s league championships, she broke a meet record in the 100 meter freestyle and will swim at NCS this weekend.
Kirtland started swimming when she was eight years old on a club swim team in Washington. “When I moved [to the Bay Area, I] saw how much I relied on it, for my emotional well-being and physical well-being,” she said. “It’s just something I’ve never gotten sick of.”
Kirtland loves swimming for BHS. “For me I just love to race … Being able to race every single week for three months of the year is just so much fun.” According to her teammates, she excels as a captain. “She works so hard at everything she does and manages to run everything super smoothly,” said Kaja Arusha, a junior on the team. “But she is also so focused on helping not only the year-round swimmers but also the people who are just starting swimming for the first time.”
As she prepares to leave BHS, Kirtland wants to express her gratitude to longtime BHS swimming and water polo coach William Gaebler. “Coach Bill is an angel. I don’t think he gets enough credit for what he does for this program. He’s like the backbone of our pool,” she said. “I’ve just learned so much about being a person from him and how to live a life with integrity.”
Next fall Kirtland will swim for Pomona College. “At first I was pretty set on swimming Division I, but realizing academically, I do better in a smaller class environment, I started looking more at Division III schools,” she said.
“I think it’s going to be the right balance … I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to do what I love for four more years,” Kirtland said.