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Will Kearsey Ended His UConn Career on Top

Will Kearsey will go down as one of the greatest swimmers to ever compete for UConn. Over the course of his four-year career, he set numerous school records, won a bunch of medals and qualified for the NCAA Championships as a senior, the most distinguished accomplishment in the sport.

But thinking back on his time at UConn, it was the memories outside of the swimming lanes that he said meant the most to him.

"You just go through so much with the guys," Kearsey said. "It really builds your relationship with them that you won't have with anyone else. And the fact that we did it for UConn, it's different than what it would be somewhere else."

A native of Wheathampstead, England, Kearsey started competitively swimming at the age of 8 or 9 and made his first championship race at 11. He said he was drawn into swimming right away because it was so different from any other sport. He loved being around the water and showed impressive skill right away.

After high school, he decided to look to the United States for a school where he could swim competitively at the college level. At this point, he was already an accomplished amateur swimmer in England, so he wanted a change in scenery.

"I wanted to come to America because I wanted to do something different," Kearsey said. "If I stayed in England, I'd be swimming in the same swimming pools with the same coaches and the same teammates that I already had been for the last 14 or 15 years. So I thought America would be something a little bit different. I'd meet new people and swim in different places that I never thought I would."

He wound up at UConn, which became a perfect fit for both parties. Coach Chris Maiello, who took over the program after Kearsey's freshman year, said that the progression he made was incredible.

"Each year he progressed soundly along with how we thought he would progress, and he did a really good job finishing it off as a senior," Maiello said. "He definitely made a conscious choice to put everything he had into his senior year and really make the best of it. I'm proud of him. He did a really good job."

In the UConn swimming record book, Kearsey has his name beside the 50-yard freestyle, the 100-yard freestyle, the 200-yard freestyle, the 100-yard backstroke, the 200-yard backstroke, as well as a part of several record-breaking relays.

His career culminated in this year's American Athletic Conference Championships, where he won three different events and was named the conference's Most Outstanding Swimmer. He said that was a time for him to reflect on how far he has come.

"I think the first medal I got was a silver medal in the 800 freestyle relay my freshman year," Kearsey said. "I almost cried because I didn't think I'd ever be getting a medal in the conference championship, which is crazy. Now, here I am with eight golds and the Most Outstanding Swimmer trophy, which was just the ultimate ending to a really good senior year."

Also at the conference championship meet, Kearsey achieved his NCAA Championship-qualifying time in the 100 backstroke. He ended up with the 19th best time in the country in that event, good enough for him to become the first male swimmer from UConn to ever be invited to the NCAA Championships.

"It's always been a goal since I got to the states and just figured out what the NCAAs was," Kearsey said. "It was dubbed as this promised land of reaching the end game, being in that top 1% of swimmers in the country and the world almost … The fact that I made it into that bracket is unbelievable."

Maiello said qualifying for that event is probably the hardest thing to do in the sport, up there with qualifying for the Olympics. UConn had divers qualify before, but Kearsey was the first male swimmer to do so, which Maiello said is huge for the program.

"It's definitely a milestone," Maiello said. "That's really kind of the standard we want to set with our program. We want athletes to aspire to get to that level. It takes a lot of hard work."

As a coach, Maiello said he felt humbled but also very excited to see Kearsey accomplish that special feat, and he said it is a testament to what UConn swimming and diving can become.

"It was really exciting and really fun to bring UConn swimming and diving into that arena, where it belongs," Maiello said. "We really believe that our program is a national caliber program. We can compete for conference championships and … hopefully we have many more opportunities to qualify for the [NCAA] meet."

Kearsey qualified for the championships in the 100 backstroke, but he was also planning on competing in the 100 freestyle and the 50 freestyle, both of which he was also ranked in the top 40 in the country. Kearsey considers the 50 free to be his personal favorite event.

"It's that blue-ribbon event that everyone wants to have a go at," Kearsey said. "It's the only 50 on the schedule … It's just the adrenaline rush of getting on the block and throwing everything you got for 19 seconds and seeing what comes out at the end of it. It's just so much hype around it. I love it."

Over his time at UConn, Maiello said the team really depended on Kearsey, sometimes more than it should have, but he always came through with victory after victory. Maiello said it's not one thing that makes Kearsey great, but rather a combination of qualities.

"I think he's a special kid because he's got great skill, but at the same time, he's got an inner confidence that he can do anything that he sets his mind to," Maiello said.

Kearsey said he still anticipates swimming to be a part of his future, whether it's Olympic trials or a new team.

"If you're not getting any slower then why should you stop?" Kearsey said.

Whenever he does stop swimming competitively, he then hopes to get a job in the business side of swimming, possibly for the International Swimming League, to stay around the sport.

Even though the NCAA Championships were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, Kearsey will always hold that distinction of being one of the elite swimmers in the country, and his legacy will live on at UConn for years to come.

Players Mentioned

Will Kearsey


Players Mentioned

Will Kearsey