Keven Stahl’s swimming success isn’t entirely unusual.
The talented athlete, however, wanted to make sure that his college path was decidedly different.
A nationally-ranked state champion in high school, Stahl was highly recruited by all levels of collegiate swimming programs.
He could've opted for an NCAA Division I program loaded with similar talents. However, that might have meant getting lost in the shuffle and being relegated to focusing on becoming a single-event specialist.
Instead, it was a chance to break from the usual narrative that led Stahl to York College.
“I liked the size of the school, it wasn’t too big. I wasn’t just a number, I was a person,” Stahl said. “The team atmosphere too, I really love it. They were all really close, closer than most of the other schools I visited or talked to.”
Since his choice, the freshman has quickly managed to make his Spartan mark as a versatile performer who’s helping the program establish itself as a Capital Athletic Conference contender.
Record setter: Stahl currently leads the Spartans with seven individual victories, in seven different events, early in the 2017-18 season.
More than his triumphs, however, it's Stahl’s usefulness throughout the lineup, and his assault on the school’s record book, that have him garnering lots of attention in his first season as a collegiate swimmer.
Stahl’s signature swim, by his own estimation, is the 1,650 free. His most impressive performance in the race came during a standout effort at the Franklin & Marshall Invite from Nov. 17-19.
During the invite, Stahl smashed the Spartans’ 1,650 free record by shaving 43.22 seconds off the previous mark. His second-place swim saw the record fall from 16 minutes, 46.14 seconds to 16:02.78. That time is also the best in the CAC and ranks fifth in NCAA Division III.
At the same meet, Stahl also set a school mark in the 500 free in 4:36.55, good enough for a fourth-place finish. That also sits atop the CAC time standings and is the seventh-best time in D-III.
Stahl had previously set the Spartans’ pool record in the 500 free on Nov. 4 at 4:41.57, which at the time was also the new school record.
In high school, Stahl was a Virginia state champion in the 1,000 free and his prowess in the event transferred well to the collegiate level. On Nov. 4, when the Spartans hosted a tri-meet vs. CAC foes St. Mary’s and Ursinus, Stahl clocked in at 9:37.82 to claim victory.
The time set both a new pool and program record. It’s also currently the top mark in the CAC and stands sixth in D-III.
“He definitely has a great deal of talent, and I knew that when I was recruiting him and keeping my fingers crossed throughout the whole process,” York College coach Greg Doyle said. “He was looking at other Division I schools, and I think with our engineering program, school and our facilities in general, that really sold him.”
Only five meets into his collegiate career, Stahl already has the most individual school records in program history with five. In two of those, he’s unseated current teammates, which speaks to the improving nature of the squad.
Stahl also holds the Spartans' best time in the 200 free at 1:43.93 and 400 individual medley in 4:02.28. The 200 free time is also the top mark in the CAC.
“It’s very nice. You can look at the other team’s roster and assume what they’ll go with,” Doyle said of Stahl’s versatility. “And to have someone like Keven, you can put him in events knowing he might get a win and it’s an off event. That helps us become a better team.”
Knowing he would be utilized in various events is another reason Stahl choose York.
“I’m able to swim more events instead of just the mile. I had more options,” Stahl said. “Instead of swimming just one event my whole college career, I can swim a multitude of events.”
For his efforts, Stahl has also already racked up three CAC Men’s Swimmer of the Week honors.
Re-emerging Spartans: Stahl’s presence in York is part of Doyle’s plan to re-establish the Spartans as a perennial contender in the CAC, as well as D-III.
It’s a process that has already yielded other record-setting swimmers in the current edition of the Spartans — including names such as Jesse Tate and Morgan Schreiber.
Tate, a sophomore who competed in high school for Central York, sits second on the team with five individual wins. Tate also holds three Spartan individual records, as well as being part of a pair of relay records.
Stahl’s 200 free record was previously set by Tate just last season.
Schreiber, a senior, had set the 500 free mark in 2015 before Stahl bettered it this season. Schreiber still holds two individual records and is part of four relay records.
“It’s continuing to get better and better, my first year compared to now,” Doyle said of the program’s progress. “Looking at the record board, believe it or not, every record on that board is from 2015, 16, 17 … It’s continuing to grow and I do have high expectations. And I think we are headed in the right direction.”
Early in the 2017-18 campaign, the York men's swimming team sports a 4-2 overall record, with a 2-0 mark in CAC action.
The Spartans are coming off a 2016-17 season that saw them go 12-2 after a 12-0 start. That start set a school record for consecutive victories. The year prior, the Spartans went 6-8 overall with a 1-4 CAC finish.
York improved to a 4-1 mark in CAC meets in 2016-17, falling only to eventual conference champ Mary Washington. The Eagles have owned the conference, winning every title since the 1999-2000 season. They own 23 conference titles in total.
“It’s really nice because next year we’ll hopefully see some people come in and increase it even more and then get us an even better team to score in NCAAs or CACs and eventually put ourselves out here and make a name for ourselves,” Stahl said. “We have a great team all around, so it’s nice to have it build up even more.”
Up next: Stahl and the Spartans return to action on Saturday, Dec. 2, when they travel to Lexington, Virginia, for the two-day Washington & Lee Invite.
York will close its season with that all-important meet against Mary Washington.
“Mary Washington is the dominant team and they have been for many, many years,” Doyle said. “But I think if we continue to work hard and do what we need to in the pool, it will be a fun meet. We both have a great opportunity to continue to raise the bar and get some people into nationals.”
Reach Elijah Armold at firstname.lastname@example.org.