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Darmody siblings leave a mark at Providence

The Darmodys are a swimming family. You can trace it all the way back to the oldest daughter, Kellie, who swam at Providence High and now at Navy. She started in a summer league in Germantown, Tenn., a suburb of Memphis.

"She came home with a trophy after her end-of-season celebration and I saw it, so I wanted to start swimming," said Kip, the second-oldest Darmody.

Kip was 7 when he started swimming competitively. Soon after, his younger brother, Kyle, started swimming competitively, at age 6. The last Darmody sibling, Kristie, now a seventh-grader at Jay M. Robinson Middle, started swimming soon after.

Finally, parents Kevin and Karen joined in.

"So it's kind of like thanks to the older sister we've gotten into the sport," said Kip.

Thanks to the older sister, Providence High now has two of the strongest male swimmers in the area. Kyle, a sophomore, and Kip, a senior, helped Providence to a state title last year, and now they're looking to repeat.

Kip, 17, and Kyle, 16, say their competitiveness came from their family. They said their dad, who played basketball at South Carolina and played in the 1979 McDonald's Capital Classic Game with players like Ralph Sampson and Sidney Lowe, will sometimes hold push-up competitions during commercial breaks. Trips to the beach often end with wind sprints from pier to pier to see who is fastest.

The family members even compete in triathlons.

"It's probably one of the most competitive families out there," said Kip.

That competitiveness carries over to practice. "We're in practice every day pushing each other," said Kip.

They've also learned from each other. Kip has "been there and done that," said Kyle. "Occasionally I'll go to him and ask him how he handles a situation or the pressure."

Kyle said he's also seen how hard work has paid off for Kip, and Kip said he's learned from his brother how to be consistent. "That's something I believe in, but it's something that can slip someone's mind easily," said Kip.

At last year's N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A state meet, the brothers pushed themselves and the team to a record-setting performance and a state championship.

Kip won the 100-yard backstroke with a 49.12 (All-American time) and Kyle won the 50 freestyle with a 21.42. The two also helped the Panthers win the 200-medley relay and 200-freestyle relay with 4A state record and All-American times.

In both relays, Kip started and Kyle anchored.

"He's normally the one leading it off and I'm bringing it home," said Kyle.

"We purposely did that," said Kip. "We kind of figured out that we liked being on the same relays together."

Coach Sandy Martin, who has been at Providence since 1997, said she's enjoyed coaching all three Darmodys.

"It's not unusual to find a good family, but a family like this is so rare," she said. "The values these parents instill in them is wonderful.

"It makes me smile a lot."

This is the first time Martin has had brothers on the same team, she said.

"The Darmody's have certainly put our boys' team back on the map," she said.

Martin said she plans to retire with Kyle's graduating class. "It's nice to be going out with this much talent."

Martin said both boys are very humble and don't brag.

The brothers both are dominant in the pool but quite different out of the water.

Kip is 6-foot-1, talkative and easy-going. Kyle towers over his younger brother at 6-foot-5 and is much quieter, more reserved.

"Personality wise, he's a whole lot more outgoing than I am," said Kyle. "I'm kind of quiet and subtle, I guess."

Martin said both Darmodys are well rounded and can swim any stroke.

Kip really stands out with his backstroke, which gave him the opportunity to compete with the USA National Youth Team in Stockholm, Berlin, and Barcelona, and his other strokes are improving. He was also the 18 and under national champion in the 100 backstroke in 2009-2010.

Both brothers have been swimming for SwimMAC since they moved to Charlotte from Germantown seven years ago.

Next year, Kip will begin his college swimming career at Texas, the same school where former South Mecklenburg star and Olympic gold-medalist Ricky Berens became an All-American. Kip has met Berens through his younger brother, Tim Berens.

"I would talk to him about all kinds of different colleges," said Kip. "I asked him good questions on Texas. It was really inspirational to see him come from Charlotte, go to Texas and become an Olympian. Seeing that happen, it fuels the fire to hopefully be able to do it one day."

Kyle said he would like to go to Texas since his brother is there. They both have dreams of being in the Olympics.

"Going to the Olympics is, long-term, my dream," said Kyle, "and to be on a relay, with (Kip) on the relay as well, would be so cool."

First the brothers would like to win another state championship. They say it will be harder without Anderson Sloan, a team captain last year who was on both state-champion relay teams. So far, Providence is undefeated in four meets.

"If they stay healthy, we're going to win again," said Martin.

Kyle wants to do more than just win.

"Do it again but do it better this time, if that's possible," he said. "Last year was such a great year."

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