Prep swimming: Kearns forges strong bond in, out of pool

Prep swimming • School boasts a strong tradition of state titles in water polo.
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The members of the Kearns High swimming team certainly spend a lot of time together. There are 6:45 a.m. practices every other weekday and practices each day after school. Away from the pool, the Cougars often eat lunch in Coach Chris Horne's classroom.

The togetherness won't stop when the season wraps up in February. The swimming team will morph into two water-polo teams, one for boys and one for girls. The boys will be gunning for their ninth consecutive state title and the girls their eighth.

Sam McElreath, a senior and one of the girls swim captains, said the bond created through all of the time spent together extends beyond the water.

"It's been the same people for like four years who are always there, and it's not just for the swimming or water polo," McElreath said. "We all come together and help out each other when we need something or someone."

That certainly has shown during the swimming season so far. Kearns is off to a strong start. The girls were undefeated before last week's Granite District Championship, and the boys won four consecutive meets in November. The Cougars topped Viewmont, which is considered the team to beat in Region 2, on Nov. 21.

"One key to success is the trust and the dependability on our team," senior captain Adam Parkinson said. "We're all really great friends, we joke around and we know when to be serious. I think that plays a huge role. In practice, we know when we can have fun and when we need to work hard. I think that's been key — time management and being mature and knowing when to do what."

For Parkinson, the success is more meaningful than winning or losing a swim meet.

"A lot of people may stereotype us, 'We're Kearns, we don't have much,' but what wins games, what wins swim meets, is mentality," he said. "What we have at Kearns is dreams and hopes, and we have lots of talent, lots of hard work and people who succeed and want to succeed."

The dedication it takes to succeed is something Horne is trying to instill in his swimmers.

"Those mornings you get up and you don't feel like coming, those are really important days to still come and swim," he said. "Those are the most important days to get up and go because you've gotta just establish that habit of attending practice every day. That's how you get the best results."

The message apparently is getting through, and Horne hopes it stays there until February.