Breaking Out Of Her Shell

Dec. 19, 2008

by Larry Watts

Will the real Heather Kiluk please stand up?

On the one hand, this Michigan State swimmer from Libertyville, Ill. would like everyone to believe she is a real homebody.

"All I did in high school was go to swim practice early in the morning, go to school, go to practice or a meet and then come home and do homework," she says. "I was boring.

"All my friends from Libertyville went off to schools in Illinois and I was the only one going to Michigan State. I really thought I would get homesick right away. My mother and older brother told me when I left home it was going to be the best time of my life.

"But as soon as I arrived in East Lansing, I had five new best friends and an instant family," she added. "My mother and brother were right and these past four years have gone by way too fast."

According to Kiluk, she has settled into a very simple life at Michigan State. When the senior advertising major isn't kept busy with her life in the pool or in the classroom, she has annually participated in raising donations in the Toys for Tots drive, helped the Salvation Army by escorting parents to stores to buy presents for their children and has taken part with her team in a yearly cleanup at a local river.

"I'm basically a shy person," she says. "I come back to my room every day and take a nap in the afternoon. I had a roommate in my freshman year encourage me to do this and I haven't stopped. I don't think I had taken a nap in the afternoon since preschool. I feel so much fresher when I do this."

Then take a look at Kiluk's profile in the swimming and diving media guide, especially the part where she's asked what she wants to be when she grows up.

"I want to be famous, I want to be a star, I want to be in movies," she answers. "When I grow up I want to see the world, drive nice cars and I want to have groupies."

So much for that shyness.

"I was just borrowing some lyrics from a song," she says with a laugh. "I really AM boring."



The 21-year-old Kiluk did have a brief shot at having a small role in a movie being shot in Libertyville.

"It was a movie about growing up in the 70s," she says. "I was called back as one of the extra dancers, but I couldn't do it because I had a swim meet that morning."

So there's no Oscar on the horizon. And as far as groupies go, Kiluk will just have to settle for her Spartan teammates, but that doesn't seem to be much of a problem since she was named Michigan State's swimmer of the year following her junior campaign.

"I think I paid the coaches pretty well for that one," she says. "That was an incredible honor."

The Academic All-Big Ten honoree had a breakout junior campaign. She set varsity records in the 200 individual medley (2:04.20) and 400 IM (4:20.95) and posted a varsity top-10 time of 1:51.08 in the 200 freestyle at the Big Ten Championships.

"This past year has been going really well," says Kiluk, who also swims the 500 and 1000 freestyles and participates in the 400 and 800 free relays. "The coaches have done a nice job of increasing my workload so I don't die at the end of the 500 and 1000 frees."

And the senior Spartan is looking forward to getting her last shot at gaining that elusive berth in the NCAA Championships.

"The strongest part of my IM is usually the front part (backstroke and butterfly) and I have a pretty good finish (in the freestyle)," she says. "But my backstroke is where I lose time and I've been really working at it.

"I'm getting closer to the (NCAA) qualifying times. I'm two seconds off in the 200 IM and five seconds off in the 400 IM. If my strokes are perfect, I think I can do it."

As far as team goals, Kiluk would like to see the Spartans take a big jump in the Big Ten Championships. Michigan State has not finished higher than 10th in the past 11 conference meets.

"I also hope we can get at least one of our relays to the NCAA Championships," she says.

If Kiluk does make it to the NCAA Championships, she will have a new "most exciting" moment as a Michigan State swimmer. She currently goes back to a summer training session following her freshman year to find her No. 1 choice.

"We were doing some laps in the outdoor pool and I saw what I thought to be a bunch of leaves in my lane," she says. "But as I got closer, I saw the head (of a bird) and I immediately jumped into another lane on top of one of my teammates.

"There was no way I was getting close to that thing. My coaches retrieved it with a big net and had quite a laugh."

After a brief return home to Libertyville for Christmas, Kiluk will head back to East Lansing on the 26th or 27th to board a bus with the men's and women's swim teams and head out for a training run to Winter Park, Fla. and back. The highlight of the trip will come after a morning meet at Trinity Prep Jan. 1, when the swimmers will quickly head over to Orlando to watch the Spartan football team play Georgia in the Capital One Bowl.

"(Running back) Javon Ringer is my guy," says Kiluk, who is a season ticket holder to the Spartan football games. "We actually have the same birthday -- Feb. 2, 1987. We're brother and sister, but I don't think he knows that.

"Hopefully, we can get a shout-out on TV (ABC) during the game. That would be really neat."

There's that shyness again.