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by Grant Johnston

December 31, 1996

Tries to get faster, but fun is important, too

My swimming career began when I was a kid and got involved in summer league meets in my hometown of Raleigh, N.C. Then I got involved in year-round swimming with the Raleigh YMCA and also swam in high school meets. Until about my sophomore year in high school, I viewed swimming as just a hobby that I liked. Then I decided to see just what I could do. That year I swam with Dennis Meehan, William Keever and future Olympian David Fox on the Raleigh YMCA team that won YMCA Nationals in 1988. That meet was the turning point in my swimming career.

After high school I swam for four years at North Carolina State University under Coach Don Easterling. My events changed every year, but I concentrated on IMs, butterfly and backstroke with an occasional sprint race for variety. Distance and breaststroke were words that never came out of my mouth, and Coach Easterling was smart enough to never put me in those events.

Like a lot of ex-swimmers, when college swimming was over, I decided to just play around and do things I didn't do while I was swimming. Also, like a lot of ex-swimmers, when I didn't touch the water for almost two years I put on about 30 extra pounds!

So, out of necessity, health reasons and budget constraints, I got back in the water in January 1996. At this time I met my new idol, Joe "Spanky" Rhyne, who resembles the Little Rascals character in body and spirit! Joe is a very motivated guy who gets in the water at 5:45 a.m. daily. If I missed a practice, he would call me a work and say, "Big Guy, we missed you this morning." Joe has done a lot to get me in the water on a somewhat regular basis. I can honestly say that if he didn't hound me and talk junk about me daily, I wouldn't be there at all.

My training now includes lifting four times per week, swimming three times per week and running, biking and playing ball whenever I wish. I'll try to continue to get faster, but what's really important is to make sure I have fun.

Swimming at the USMS Long Course Meters Nationals in Ann Arbor, Mich., last August 22-25, 1996, was quite nice, especially when I could pick events that started after noon! I like the laid-back approach to having fun and swimming fast. Masters swimming is great, and it's a neat way to stay active, keep healthy and meet some cool people.