Swimming her way to state

Ironman Kelsey Crane works on her butterfly stroke last week during practice.  - Kristin Okinaka
Ironman Kelsey Crane works on her butterfly stroke last week during practice.
— image credit: Kristin Okinaka

Kelsey Crane started swimming at age 3 because her family lived next to Panther Lake — her parents enrolled her in swim lessons early as a safety precaution. By age 7, she joined a swim team.

Now, as a freshman at Klahowya Secondary School, she is an ironman.

She gained the ironman status by qualifying in all eight individual swim events for the state competition.

“I set my mind to it. I knew I really wanted to get ironman,” said Kelsey last week.

The 14-year-old earned her ironman status after swimming 1 minute, 13.59 seconds in the 100-yard breaststroke against Kingston High School in an Olympic League meet Oct. 20. The state qualifying time is 1 minute, 13.9 seconds. She will swim at districts Friday and Saturday in Renton and next weekend at state in Federal Way.

Kelsey said she doesn’t have a favorite stroke. She heard about the ability to be an ironman earlier this year and once she looked at last year’s state times, she knew she had a good shot at them as well.

Along with her self discipline, she’s always had the support of family and coaches.

“We never say never when she sets a goal,” said Kim Crane, Kelsey’s mother. “She has the ability to accomplish what most think is unrealistic in the water.”

Klahowya’s swim team coach Diana Smith said Kelsey is very dedicated and self-motivated. She never opts out of doing a drill or sprint during practices, Smith said.

The fact that Kelsey has been able to qualify in all eight individual events as a freshman is also rare.

“It’s not very common at all. It’s more the junior and senior grades that do,” Smith said.

Bethany Aban, a senior at North Kitsap High School, is also an ironman.

And just as any swimmer, regardless of grade level, Kelsey worked for her times. For a few of the events, she had to cut a few seconds from her times — a lot in the swimming world.

For the 100-yard breaststroke, Kelsey said she had to shave four or five seconds off her time in order to qualify for state. She said she was a “little worried” but received help from her club coach with the Olympic Aquatic Club to change her stroke. Kelsey learned to take larger strokes with her arms rather than short ones.

“She does a very nice job managing her goal setting. That’s hard for anybody,” said Marilyn Grindrod, Kelsey’s coach at the club.

For Kelsey, it’s swimming year-round. With the high school team and her club team, she takes a two-week break from the lap lanes in the summer between the two seasons. She’s never been injured, and said she is lucky for that.

“I never get tired of swimming,” said Kelsey adding that since she has been doing it her entire life, she can’t see herself not swimming. Aside from swimming, she did ballet and gymnastics but stopped once she was about 6 years old.

“I like swimming more. It came more naturally to me,” said Kelsey.

There are no other strong swimmers in her family but being athletic is not a rarity in her genes. Crane said Kelsey’s cousin, Ryan Young, went to the University of California on a javelin scholarship.

Although Kelsey is focusing on districts and state — she said she never really gets nervous before meets — Kelsey has another motivating factor behind her training. She has aspirations to swim at the Olympics.

Every summer Olympics, Kelsey said she watches all the swim events and studies how the athletes act before they race. Crane said Kelsey has met about nine Olympians through swim clinics and meet-and-greets, which increase the notion that the Olympics can be possible with hard work.

“It doesn’t matter what other people say,” said Kelsey. “I stay with what I set my mind to.”

She did it with the ironman, and she plans on taking her swimming further.

“I know it’s going to happen. It might not happen right away, but it will happen,” she said.


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