Ben Keith will never forget his first time in the water.
“I was on a family reunion trip to Lake George in Upstate New York when I was 4 or 5 years old,” says the Skyline senior. “While I was there, one day I just began to clumsily move my way around in the lake. My mom was watching, and asked me if I wanted to take swim lessons. I had just quit soccer because I hated it, so I said yes to her, and the rest is history.”
It sure is. Keith is one of several standout swimmers back in the pool this year after helping lead the Eagles to a Division 1 State Championship last season. And winning a state title is something else the smart, hard-working young man won’t soon forget either.
“At first it wasn’t very real,” he says. “I had to take a step back and look at our past to see that we had been working incredibly hard to be able to win. The year before we won states (my sophomore year) we were runner up, so the best part of winning, was seeing how much progress was made.”
Keith has been making plenty of progress ever since he jumped in the lake in New York – even though he admits he didn’t take to the sport like fish to water.
“I did not have success right away,” he says. “It took four or five years before I actually saw any type of improvement.”
The improvement eventually came. As a sophomore, Keith earned his first state cut at the last chance meet at Huron High School in the 100 fly by 0.01 seconds. Then as a junior, he placed eighth in the state for the 100 fly (51.50).
Skyline Coach Mo-Jo Murrett has always been impressed with Keith’s work ethic.
“Ben consistently puts in the very best effort in whatever he does,” she said. “He is consistently looking for that next challenge. He is a conscientious trainer who has really shown a lot of growth in all four strokes this year.”
This year has been going well for Keith who has some big goals in the final weeks of the season.
“This year I want Skyline to win states again,” he said. “I think it is important for people to understand that while we graduated a lot of great swimmers this past year, we still have a lot of great swimmers on the team, and we are incredibly confident in our abilities.”
Keith seems especially proud of this year’s Skyline team. He says the team is very motivated and that is very apparent within the underclassmen ranks.
“Every day I see them racing each other and pushing themselves to their limits to get better, and I think that has helped foster a great environment for growth,” Keith said. “One thing that I and the other captains have been working on is trying to keep the team feeling like a team, which is something Skyline has struggled with in the past. I am very proud to say that we really didn’t have to work that hard to achieve that goal this year.
“Our teammates really came in this year and told themselves that they were going to do the best they could, be the best they could, and continue to strive to be better. I believe they have done just that.”
Ben, the son of Melissa Sokol-Keith and Samuel Keith, has a 3.8 grade-point average and also plays water polo for the Eagles. He hasn’t decided on what college to attend but plans on majoring in pre-med or microbiology.
Taking a look back at his career, Keith is glad he decided to go for a swim during that family reunion. It turned out to be one of the best decisions in his life.
“Swimming has been the base of my life for the past decade,” he says. “It has allowed me to confront a lot of situations which I would not have been comfortable in if I hadn’t chosen to swim.
“For example, I hate public speaking, but swim has really allowed me to practice and be comfortable performing in front of others. Swim has also given me a base of people who I can really talk to if things aren’t going great in general, this is something I am especially grateful for.”
MAIN PHOTO: By Suzanne DeVine