Kelso swimmer Grant Eastham made it to state last year in the 100-yard backstroke. It prompted him to set a new goal: qualify in two events for the 3A State Championships this weekend at King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.
He’s done just that, putting up qualifying marks in the 200-yard individual medley, and setting a new school record in the 100 backstroke at the district meet in Gaither Pool last Friday. Now he has a new goal: become a state finalist.
“There’s a bunch of kids who went 58 seconds in the 100-yard backstroke and I just went at 57 seconds,” Eastham said. “I’m kind of hoping to make finals in that”
Eastham, a junior, began his journey swimming as a fourth-grader with the Killer Whales swim club in Longview. He started his prep career with Rainier.
Eastham’s parents pushed him to start swimming initially, he said, but he quickly took a liking to the sport.
He progressed into a state-qualifying swimmer as a sophomore but still felt a swath of emotions Friday before he set the Hilanders’ newest record.
“All day I was kind of mentally prepping. It was different than a normal meet because it was districts,” Eastham said. “It was a meet that actually counted; there was a lot of pressure.”
Eastham learned some tricks to use that pressure with the Portland Aquatic Club last year, and he transitioned the anxiety into motivation.
“That was probably one of the best races I’ve had ever; that was a pretty good moment,” Eastham said. “It felt pretty good to make it to state, not just the 100 back, but also the 200 individual medley.”
Citing the extra time in the pool, Eastham feels “stronger in the water” than he was last season, which he finished with a 1:00.95 100-yard backstroke at state.
“Even though I swam at the pool where state is held at many times, it’s still different,” Eastham said. “Back has been main stroke for a long time. I figured that out when I was younger.”
His coach then is his coach now, and after transferring to Kelso from Rainier after his freshman year, Lori Clark saw his progression come nearly full circle. Eastham was named all-league in his first year swimming as a Scottie, and continues to impress. While his primary goals revolve around state, he still has one general goal.
“I’m probably going to get faster,” Eastham said, “I’m hoping I get faster.”