After months of early mornings and grueling workouts, Saturday’s Fast Chance Invitational proved to be a long-awaited breakthrough meet for several members of Kenyon’s accomplished swimming and diving teams. Held annually, the meet includes one standard session and two time-trial sessions to give NCAC swimmers one last chance to earn personal bests to improve their chances of qualifying for the NCAA Division III Championship meet.
The Owls had a successful weekend. The women had 11 personal bests and five new ‘B’ cuts, while the men had four personal bests, with three swimmers earning ‘B’ cuts.
Many of the swimmers approached the meet hoping to earn results that would speak for everything they have dedicated to the sport. Sure enough, this year’s invitational served as a stage for several of them to produce their best performances yet after facing disappointment in the past.
Drew Grier ’23 brought his swimming career to a close in a redemptive fashion after he broke 49 seconds in the 100-yard butterfly for the first time, finishing the event in 48.77 seconds. After swimming a personal best of 49.03 as a sophomore, Grier struggled to improve his time until his emphatic final race this weekend, calling for a triumphant, if bittersweet, celebration. “I smacked the water; I was super excited — got out of the water and getting hugs left, right and sideways,” he said. “I got a big hug from my coach; he said, ‘Thank you for all you’ve done for the program,’ I said thank you back to him, gave a big ol’ hug, and that was the last time that I talked to him, the last time I’m going to be a part of his swim team, was Saturday evening.”
Considering the sport’s intense physical and mental demands, Grier noted the deep gratification of achieving this feat in the wake of a brutally discouraging three-year plateau. “It’s essentially the definition of insanity; you’re swimming back and forth staring at a black line for two hours every single day, and then to do that for 150 days and then finish out your season with no time improvement — that’s really frustrating,” he said. “To see a time improvement this year was surreal. It made the whole process, the whole four years at Kenyon, really worth it at the end.”
Like Grier, Sydney Buchman ’24 also achieved her long-sought goal to earn personal bests and ‘B’ cuts in the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke events. Her proudest accomplishment was dropping her time in the 100-yard event for the first time since 2019. At this weekend’s invitational, she swam a 1:03.98 to break the tantalizing 1:04.00 barrier and improve upon her previous time of 1:04.64, a success she attributed largely to placing less pressure on herself. “It was a huge growth point for me from last year to this year, because I was just so fixated on going fast and making nationals,” she said.
Buchman’s time improvements greatly increased her chances of qualifying for the NCAA Championship Meet, though she will not receive confirmation for a few more days about whether or not she will be invited. Regardless, Buchman expressed a deep satisfaction with what she was able to achieve this season. “I am just unbelievably proud of myself for going a best time in both of those events and getting the ‘B’ cuts, and even the thought of going to Nationals really is enough for me,” she said.
After proving themselves in the face of a years-long test of physical endurance, mental focus and commitment to the sport, both Grier and Buchman emerged victorious with their heads held high. As Grier looks forward to graduation in a few months, he reflected on everything the sport has done to prepare him for the future. “It’s taught me extreme dedication to something that I’m passionate about [and] how to continue with something that is hard, no matter what’s thrown at me,” he said.