Swimming into success

Senior sets goal to break six school records


Emily Kruse

Back in action­ — Senior Stephen Johnson swims the backstroke as part of the team’s intra-squad meet in November.

By Gary Schmidt, Editor

It started with a pair of fins. In the 11 years in between, it has been countless hours in the pool, numerous school records and one historic career.

Senior Stephen Johnson started swimming at the young age of 7, more concerned with his attire than how he competed.

“It was when I was 7 years old and my mom told me I could get a pair of fins if I joined swimming,” Johnson said. “That would be the first thing.”

It was not long, according to Johnson, before his competitive nature took over, and he fell in love with the sport.

“I was about 10, and I went to what was a championship meet for me at the time,” Johnson recalled. “I won my heat, and it was the best I have ever done in swimming, and it just pushed me forward and made me want to do better.”

His successes — four school records already to his name — are met with equal sacrifices. Often times, Johnson has to say no to hanging out with friends in order to better prepare himself for races.

“There are so many times that I have told my friends, ‘I can’t hang out, sorry, I have swimming practice.’ Or, ‘I have a swim meet this weekend,’ ”Johnson said. “It’s a lot of a time commitment. After a workout, I will be there in school and just be dead, not wanting to move or do anything.”

His work is not only reflected in the record books. Teammates and coaches alike rave about how Johnson’s work is a positive influence on the program. Fellow senior Treyton Trujillo went as far as to say Johnson “is the program.”

“I feel the fact that we have such a dedicated swimmer that consistently places in the top three places is a solid foundation for the team,” Trujillo added.

Head coach Kent McDonald places Johnson in the top two swimmers he has ever coached.

“I think his work ethic, how hard he tries in practice [is what makes Johnson special],” McDonald said. “His races have all been impressive. You can count on him to swim well every time he swims. It’s fun watching him start a relay behind and catch the team ahead of him, pass and beat him. But his work ethic at practice is probably the most important thing.”

Amid the success, Johnson remains focused at bettering himself in order to prepare for swimming in college. He is committed to the University of South Dakota.

“I always look for the person who is better than me, and I always strive, thinking, what are they doing in practice, what are they doing in swim meets?” Johnson said. “I push myself to their level, and if I overcome them, then I push myself to the next person. A lot of it is competition, and I want to be successful later on in college, so it is thinking about that.”

Post-secondary, Johnson aims to either go into nursing or attend medical school. However, he plans to carry traits he has learned from swimming into whatever he pursues.

“Swimming has always given me this break for my mind, because I can go swim or workout,” Johnson said. “If I am not needing the break, I can think about everything I have been studying through the day. [Swimming] helps me think about and go over things, and it has given this work ethic that I will always have with me.”