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Finding ‘own path’: Chandler swimmer Kaylah Yazzie signs with Air Force Academy

Submitted | McResha Yazzie
Chandler senior Kaylah Yazzie (center) poses with her family members after signing her letter of intent to swim for the Air Force Academy. Members of her family include uncle back row, L to R: uncle Lawrence Yazzie, father Lamoni Yazzie and aunt Desbah Yazzie. Front row, L to R: mother McResha Yazzie, Kaylah and sister Nanabah.

WINDOW ROCK

It wasn’t the easiest decision, but Chandler High’s Kaylah Yazzie picked the Air Force Academy to continue her path as a collegiate swimmer.

The Diné, Comanche, and Sac and Fox athlete signed with Air Force on Feb. 2 in a group signing with her high school teammates.

Kaylah is the daughter of Lamoni and McResha Yazzie, and she has one younger sibling, Nanabah, who is also a competitive swimmer.

With her signing, Kaylah follows the military path that her dad, uncle (Colonel Lawrence Yazzie), and aunt (Major Desbah Yazzie) took.

She is planning on studying either business management or aeronautical engineering.

“Obviously, I do have ties to the Air Force,” the Chandler senior said. “Growing up we always went back to my dad’s basketball reunions, and we would go back for my aunt’s academy events, so at the end of the day, Air Force felt like home for me.”

McResha said her daughter was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, as her husband coached the Air Force Preparatory School in 2003.

The year prior, Lamoni had graduated from the academy.

“It’s kind of like full circle,” McResha said. “She was born there, and now she’s going back.”

The Chandler High senior narrowed her choices to the academy and the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

“They both wanted her, and it was a tough choice for her to make because they’re both great programs,” McResha said.

The Yazzie matriarch said her daughter established great relationships with the two college coaches.

“They set up separate tours for Kaylah, and during those visits, she got to evaluate the aviation program that she’s interested in.

“Honestly, aviation is something that I really want to do,” Kaylah said. “I honestly feel like that’s the career field I want to enter.”

Kaylah is currently working on getting her private pilot’s license while attending East Valley Institute of Technology. It’s a program that works with Chandler High School.

As of April 11, she was five lessons away from earning her license.

“I’ve been working on it for two years,” she said. “The program works with high school students for kids that are pursuing technical careers. Since I want to do aviation, my parents got me into this program.”

Lamoni, who played collegiately at Air Force with his older brother Lawrence, said he’s not surprised with his daughter’s direction in life.

“We’re just super proud of her,” he said. “I think she kind of naturally fell in line in following our family’s footsteps and legacies.”

Lamoni said he loved basketball growing up, which kept him on the correct path to earn a Division I scholarship at the academy.

“It kept me driving, not only on the basketball court but in the classroom as well,” he said. “With Kaylah, she’s found her own path, and she’s found her own passion with swimming. She created that path on her own, and that is what we’re most proud of.”

Lamoni said you don’t hear many athletes that have a vision after sports. But in his daughter’s case, she is looking beyond that as she aspires to be a pilot.

“She’s taking that next step as far as looking at her career,” he said. “That is what me and McResha wanted to instill with not only Kaylah but both of our daughters. We want them to think about what’s the transition after they hang up the Speedos.

“She’s already thinking about the next chapter in her life, and she’s really embrace that.”

Lamoni said his daughters compete in a sport that has less than 1% Native American participation.

“Many times, it’s Kaylah and her sister (who are) representing our people,” he said.

After taking up swimming when she was 9 years old, Kaylah knew that she wanted to do the sport in college. Before that, she dabbled with basketball.

“I was put into one of the best swim schools, so I had to work hard in the pool to be relevant,” she said. “I also had to be relevant in the classroom, so if I didn’t get good grades, then it was obvious that I wasn’t going to be at swim practice that day.”

For the past 10 years, she’s trained under coach Brian Hoffer at the JForce swim club.

With her swim club, she’s taken part in numerous national meets. And when she entered her seventh-grade year, she went to Basis Chandler, one of the top prep schools in Arizona.

While there, she earned the Canyon Athletic Association Swimmer of the Year.

With an interest in aviation, Kaylah transferred to Chandler High to take part of the private pilot program at the start of her junior season.

For the Wolves’ swim team, she competed in the backstrokes, but last fall she entered races where her coaches needed her most.

“I qualified for state in all three relays,” Kaylah said of 200 free, 400 free and 200 medleys.

Individually, she qualified for state in the 100 fly and 100 back.

All those accolades has given Kaylah the resources to compete at the college of her choice.

“My whole goal was to be a Division I swimmer at a top-notch school, with a top-notch education at one of the top institutions in America,” she said. “And honestly, it was one of my goals to serve our country as a military officer and become an Air Force pilot. But not only that, I just want to be a positive representation for the Native American community.”


About The Author

Quentin Jodie

Quentin Jodie is the Sports Editor for the Navajo Times. He started working for the Navajo Times in February 2010 and was promoted to the Sports Editor position at the end of summer in 2012. Previously, he wrote for the Gallup Independent. Reach him at qjodie@navajotimes.com

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