The Yale swim team does not begin competition for another month, but Kieran Locke ’06 already has a few races under his belt.
Locke, representing the U.S. Virgin Islands, competed at the World Swimming Championship in Indianapolis this weekend.
Over the course of the five-day meet, which ended yesterday, Locke competed in the 50-meter backstroke, the 50-meter freestyle, the 100-meter freestyle, the 200-meter freestyle and the 200-meter backstroke. He finished 28th out of 38, 55th out of 80, 47th out of 68, 37th out of 45 and 21st out of 28, respectively. But given the strength of his competitors and the fact that he did not prepare specially for this weekend, Locke said he was pleased with his showing.
“I was surprised,” Locke said. “I’m very happy with how I swam. I don’t know if I was expecting to swim as well as I did. Every race was a very solid race for me, and I’m happy with how I did in all of them.”
The Championships boasted competitors such as Michael Phelps — who stopped racing early in the competition because of a back injury — and over 20 other Olympic athletes. Locke said that just being close to such high-profile swimmers was exhilarating.
“It’s cool to be here with all of these amazing athletes and rubbing shoulders with them,” Locke said. “Phelps was warming down in my lane one day. Aaron Piersol was swimming in the same lane as me — It’s been awesome.”
Locke’s teammates at Yale also expressed excitement about his performance.
“He basically went out there unshaved, unrested and untapered, and swam with the world’s best,” Yale swimmer Geof Zann ’07 said. “All things considered, his times were very respectable.”
Members of the Yale swim team gathered at the swim house to watch coverage of the Championships, which aired on ESPN2. Only the finals for each race were broadcast, so the Bulldogs were not able to watch Locke. But they still provided support for their teammate, calling him and encouraging him each day.
“All of us back at home are really impressed and enthusiastic,” Yale swim team captain Dave Lange ’05 said. “We think it will translate to our swimming here.”
Locke, a resident of the U.S. Virgin Islands, represented his homeland at the meet. The Islands team, which consisted of Locke and three other swimmers, did fairly well, Locke said. On Sunday morning, one of Locke’s teammates placed 22nd in an event.
“Everyone on the team’s really supportive and I think very pleased with how I’m doing,” Locke said. “They’re swimming well also. Everyone’s swimming pretty well and just enjoying it here.”
Locke returns to New Haven today. He said his experience in Indianapolis will help him with the Yale swimming season.
“I’m just very fortunate to be able to have this opportunity to attend something like this,” Locke said. “I think it remotivates me, reenergizes me and gives me more experience — All of these people are so good at what they do, and I just watch them and learn. Also, I’ve gotten to watch myself on TV swimming, so I can look at those races and see what my weak points are.”
In addition to helping Locke prepare for the collegiate season, Zann said Locke’s presence at the Championships has served as an inspiration for the Elis.
“I think he’s really putting the first stepping stone into place for us right now by going out there and performing the way he did,” Zann said. “We want to, and are going to, turn some heads this year. Kieran is setting that precedent.”