Pinecrest Swimmer Signs With UNC
When Pinecrest swimmer Kurt Wohlrab recently signed a national letter-of-intent to attend UNC-Chapel Hill for swimming, there were a lot of family members and fellow Pinecrest students on hand for the occasion.
Support means a lot to the Wohlrab family, and it was evident by the turnout, which included his parents, Dr. Kurt Wohlrab and Julie Wohlrab.
“Family has always been important to me,” Wohlrab said. “I know they will really support me.”
A competitive swimmer since the age of 4, Wohlrab capped his senior year at Pinecrest by being named the most valuable performer at last winter’s state 4-A swimming championship. In that meet he claimed two state titles — the 100-yard breaststroke and the 100-yard butterfly. His time of 0:55.63 in the 100 breaststroke was a new state record.
He also earned a fourth-place finish in the 100-yard breaststroke at December’s Junior National Championships in Austin, Texas.
But all his accomplishments in the pool waned a bit this year when his his 31⁄2-year-old niece, Isabelle “Izzy” Marie Wohlrab, died of cancer in March.
The little girl, who had been diagnosed with cancer two years ago, had become a rallying cry for students at Pinecrest and Union Pines high schools. Purple out days were held at the schools, and several of the athletic teams wore purple to show support for Izzy. Purple was Izzy’s favorite color.
Groups at the schools held fundraisers, and students started a Twitter campaign in support of Izzy. That campaign rose to the third most popular tweet in the North Carolina area.
The efforts of Kurt, his sisters, Meagan and Lauren, and their friends raised nearly $30,000 for the Izzy Foundation, a non profit foundation that works to help families of children with cancer as they face the extraordinary expenses associated with treatment. For a blog about the life of Izzy and the foundation, go to kyletina2009.com.
“This has been a huge part of the family’s existence for the last 21⁄2 years,” said Julie Wohlrab. “The students really rallied around her and Kurt.”
The love and support behind the student-driven campaign was evident at Wohlrab’s signing. The school’s library was packed with people, including Izzy’s parents, Dr. Kyle Wohlrab and Dr. Katina Wohlrab, who came from their home in Providence, R.I., for the event.
Also on hand were his grandparents, Susie and Greg Malinsky, his sisters and his cousins, Garrett, Hadley and Fletcher Wohlrab.
Wohlrab narrowed his college choices down to Florida State and UNC before deciding to become a Tar Heel. The decision was a tough one, with Kurt making a list of pros and cons for both schools. The two schools were neck-and-neck on the list, Wohlrab said, with both of them offering partial scholarships.
“I looked at the top five categories — coaches, facility, academics, guys on the team and cost — and financially it came down to UNC,” he said.
Kurt’s father said that he knew his son was having a hard time deciding between Florida State and UNC.
“There were positive and negatives for each school,” he said. “When he added it all up, it was a tough decision to make.
“As a father, all you really want is for your son to pick and be ecstatic when he makes his choice.”
A 4.0 student at Pinecrest, Kurt is once again influenced by his family in his future plans. Like his grandfather, father, uncle and aunt, Kurt wants to go into the medical field after his swimming days are over.
“Academics are always stressed in the house,” Kurt said. “You had to get good grades. I’m planning on going to medical school, like most of my family has.”
His mother indicated that swimming and grades went together for Kurt.
“He couldn’t go swimming if he didn’t have good grades,” she said.
Driven to Succeed
Moving here from Hawaii for his eighth-grade year, Wohlrab immediately got involved with the Sandsharks, a local swimming organization directed by Taylor Cooper.
Cooper has been a great help to Kurt, and not just in the pool. He was a good adviser to Kurt when it came time to make a decision about which college to attend.
“Coop was like a father figure for his swimmers,” Kurt said. “He was good to talk to and not just about swimming. Any problems you had, you could talk to Coop.”
Cooper, who said that Kurt’s biggest strength is his competitiveness, knew the decision about college would be a tough one for Kurt.
“You can’t make a decision like that for anyone else,” Cooper said. “In the end, Kurt is the one who will have to live with it. I think UNC is a good fit for him, though.”
Kurt’s father also thinks that UNC is a good fit.
“UNC is a great state university,” he said. “Swimming and academics — it met his lifelong goal.”
Kurt’s mother believes her son will continue to shine at the college level.
“He’s very self-driven and a smart kid,” she said. “He has gotten to the level he is now. The bottom line is we are excited to see him go to the next level.
“He’ll be challenged by kids that are equally driven. That will push him and help him reach his ultimate goal.”
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