Recent Bainbridge graduate Kevin Houseman will compete in Budapest for Team USA for the first time later this month
It’s not everyday that Carolyn Ackerley, head coach for the Bainbridge Island Swim Club, charges one of her swimmers to bring their passport to a meet.
Ackerley had one such request for Kevin Houseman when the pair jetted south to Palo Alto, California, for the U.S. Swimming National Championships. Last week saw Houseman, a 2019 Bainbridge High graduate, compete in the 100 and 200-meter breaststroke events.
It was the final of the 100 breast that, for now, changed his life and boosted his swimming career to a higher level.
Houseman earned an invitation by USA Swimming to compete at the World Junior Swimming Championships, August 20-25, in Budapest, Hungary, as part of Team USA’s junior squad.
The last Kitsap swimmer to make a national junior team was Bremerton’s Nathan Adrian.
“I”m very excited to be representing the USA for the first time in my career,” Houseman said by phone from Palo Alto where he stayed this week to swim in the U.S. Junior Nationals. He added he’s “super pumped” to swim against foreign countries and the respect and etiquette that all national-team members adhere to as they compete. “I’m super motivated because of the experience and I just feel like it will help me in a bunch of ways. I’m grateful.”
“The whole reason we went to compete at nationals was because they were selecting (athletes) for that trip,” Ackerley said. “We knew what we had to do going in. He was ranked high enough it was a realistic goal.”
Waiting was the hard part. Houseman didn’t swim until later in the meet and had a few days to rest, watch technique videos and learn from USA Swimming legends like Brendan Hansen, a three-time Olympian, and six-time medalist in the breaststroke, who is now director of team services for USA Swimming.
Houseman had a good swim in the prelims of the 100 breaststroke — “I was just having fun … (I went) best time but it hurt” — to earn a spot in the C finals but still felt like he was scrambling to get to the wall. Houseman admitted to a bad case of nerves and feeling “jittery” the day of the 100 because he knew what was at stake.
Then it came down to the finals. Houseman knew he had to finish ahead of one particular swimmer, Derek Maas. It didn’t matter what his time was. For that one swim, it was all about racing.
“I had the wackiest pre-race ritual,” Houseman said, “not at all what people recommend. During the race I thought I was getting absolutely destroyed. I’m trying to go as hard as I could, Derek, he’s a 200 breaststroker, I tried to go fast and saw him at the 50 and thought ‘Oh no, he’s right with me.’
“Maybe he didn’t have the endurance in the last 50. I was just shocked.”
It wasn’t a perfect swim. In the end, it didn’t matter.
“It was a miraculous swim that somehow came together,” Houseman said.
Winners of A finals are automatically guaranteed a spot onto a national or junior national team. The selection process by USA Swimming follows that the runner-up is selected soon after the event. It takes time for the process of filling out the roster by the team director and coaches because some swimmers are in multiple events.
Team USA’s junior national team director, Mitch Dalton, sent a text to Ackerley two days later, saying they were officially inviting Houseman to the team to swim the 100 and 50 breaststroke events.
“I didn’t want to text (Kevin), I wanted to tell him in person,” Ackerley said.
So she casually mentioned to Houseman to make sure he had his passport and other documents with him for the evening session, just in case, she said.
“I showed him the text and he was just elated,” Ackerley said.
The pair immediately went to the team processing room set aside by USA Swimming to start the overseas paperwork and Houseman was then given the opportunity to pick up all his Team USA gear.
“The most exciting part was him selecting his suit size and sweat size, all kinds of swag,” she said.
Houseman will leave for worlds in a few days with the junior team. The 100 breaststroke is slated for Tuesday, Aug. 20, for the prelims and semi-finals. Finals are Aug. 21. The 50 is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 24 for prelims and semis and the finals are Sunday, Aug. 25.
It will be the first time Houseman will travel overseas for a meet, and admits he won’t have time to do any site seeing. Team members, when not competing, are cheering on their teammates and sticking to a meet schedule.
Houseman doesn’t mind. He still is not near the times he knows he can make.
“Maybe I’ll hit them at worlds,” he said.