BYU senior swimmer Kirsty Ferrell (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
Youngest children often have the tendency to follow in their older siblings’ footsteps and it was no different for one BYU senior swimmer, but she had her own unique way of going through life.
Glendora, Calif. native, guitar playing, surf boarding, cooking connoisseur, wakeboard loving, civil engineering major, swim lesson teacher, fitness fanatic, 5-foot-10 sprinter Kirsty Ferrell is the fourth of four Ferrell children to compete on the BYU swim team.
Whether it was going to Disneyland, the beach or the lake, Ferrell and her three siblings would always do things together. Ferrell’s oldest sister, Monica, started swimming when she was 12 and her two older brothers and she started at the same time, being two years apart.
“Growing up I didn’t do any other sports,” said Ferrell. “All of my other siblings did all the other sports. But because I was the youngest, I didn’t do anything else. What happened was, all my older siblings did all the sports growing up and my older sister was not very coordinated, so they put her in swimming and put everyone else in as well.”
All four Ferrell children ended up swimming for BYU and being civil engineers like their parents. Although Nancy and Douglas Ferrell never expected their children to all pursue civil engineering like themselves, they were very supportive of their children’s life decisions, including swimming for BYU.
“We have a picture of all four of them in their BYU letterman’s jackets,” said Ferrell’s mother, Nancy. “It will have been 10 years that we had kids on the team – from 2000-2010. It’s been a real special thing for our family, it has been a great journey.”
Although the swimming genes were found in the Ferrell family, Kirsty was the only sprinter out of the four.
“They all hated me because I had the easier workouts as a sprinter,” said Ferrell.
“She’s awesome at what she does,” said her older brother Jeff who is also currently a senior swimmer at BYU. “I’m jealous that she swam the sprints while all of us were doing our long workouts for distance.”
Ferrell started swimming competitively on a club team when she was only six years old and she describes it as being a long journey. But surprisingly, her parents liked swimming, but weren’t huge swimmers themselves.
“My dad swam in summer leagues growing up as a kid and swam in high school,” said Ferrell. “My mom wasn’t a swimmer, but did some lifeguarding. But they have fallen in love with the sport and come to all of our meets – they are our biggest fans.”
When asked if she regrets never playing any other sport, Ferrell is very grateful for being in swimming and being able to succeed, but she often wonders what could have happened if she pursued another sport.
“I often think that I could’ve been a pretty good volleyball player because I’m tall,” she said. “But I did well in swimming, so it turned out ok.”
Before being the fourth Ferrell to join the BYU swim team, Kirsty describes her biggest accomplishment of her pre-college swimming experience as being awarded the Sierra League Athlete of the Year her senior year of high school.
“I was given that award because I was nominated to be the No. 1 athlete out of all the sports and all seven schools in the league,” said Ferrell. “It was an honor that they would choose me for that award.”
She also remembers being named the MVP of the Sierra League all four years in swimming and placing second at CIF as other great swimming accomplishments.
But Ferrell admits that she wasn’t always a great, Division I college-bound swimmer.
“I would say that my junior or senior year is when my swimming career really came around,” she said. “I wasn’t that great to be 100-percent honest. I was just a mediocre swimmer. You can tell how good you are by seeing what kind of meets you’re going to. As a young swimmer, I didn’t go to the super fast meets when I was growing up.”
Then all of a sudden she saw herself improving and she started receiving letters in the mail from colleges that wanted to know her times to possibly recruit her.
“When BYU started recruiting me, it was special because I thought I would just be walking on,” said Ferrell. “I thought it was possible to swim for BYU, but I didn’t think I would ever be offered a scholarship.”
Although Ferrell was very interested in going to BYU, she still kept her options open. The Air Force Academy intently recruited Ferrell and she contemplated other schools, thinking to be the rebel in her family to be the only one to not attend BYU, but ended up following her mother’s, father’s, sister’s, brother’s and other brother’s footsteps.
Ferrell’s mother remembers that she never thought any of her kids would swim at the Division I collegiate level.
“We did everything we could to help them succeed, but we didn’t think that they were going to swim Division I,” said Nancy. “When our oldest daughter, Monica, got in to BYU it was a surprise, but because she got on the team and worked hard, the rest of her siblings had more of a chance.”
“We try to identify them early when we recruit and we watched her and knew how she was doing,” said BYU associate head coach Stan Crump who recruited Ferrell. “It was a little bit easier with the family background, but we didn’t take anything for granted and we used every means at our disposal to recruit and get her on our team.”
“One thing that really interested me in BYU was family,” said Ferrell. “My siblings were here and that was a plus. I already felt a bond with the team because I came to all of my sister’s swim meets.”
A sense of pride ensued in Ferrell’s heart as she thought about putting on the Cougar Blue.
“I grew up coming to BYU my whole life,” she said. “My parents would bring us up to homecoming football games for as long as I can remember. I saw this wearing of BYU colors and representing the school in swimming as a real opportunity.”
After four years of swimming at BYU, Ferrell believes that her time has been long, but well spent.
“It has been a long road, a long journey,” she said. “There have been a lot of ups and downs - I would be lying if I said that everything has been just great. But I wouldn’t change my experience for the world. I have learned so much from being here. I love representing the university. Being able to swim for BYU and wear the cap that says it on my head has meant a lot to me.”
The 2008-09 swim and dive season at BYU marked the first year since 1981 where the men’s and women’s programs were combined. Ferrell describes this time as something that helped her enjoy swimming even more, being able to be more connected to her older brother, Jeff.
“I have really enjoyed having the teams combined this past year,” said Ferrell. “It’s fun to swim with my brother.”
“I’ve always enjoyed swimming with family members because you have that instant support system,” said Jeff. “She works really hard and is very motivating to me. She has always supported me and I have always tried to catch up to her.”
This connection that all of her siblings share is something that Ferrell will always cherish about her BYU swimming experience. She also describes her team as a family unit.
“Thinking back on my four years swimming at BYU, the team family is what sticks out to me most,” Ferrell said. “Coming in and having a group of girls that all care for each other and want the best for each other was exactly what I needed. I have never been on a team where I have felt such a strong bond.”
Ferrell is grateful for all of the support she has received over the years from her teammates and coaches and attributes that support to helping her succeed.
“She has probably exceeded my expectations,” said Crump. “We felt like she had unlimited potential and every year she has gotten a little bit better. I thought it would be a long time before we had another flyer as good as Angela Goodson Price, but she surprised me last year with how well she did.”
“My swimming got much better when I came to BYU,” she said. “I have been able to improve my times steadily each year and I count that as a blessing. Hopefully this year I can do the same.”
As a sprinter, there is always a time that you shoot for, but sometimes you never feel like you’ll be able to achieve it. Seeing a 23.00 in the 50 free when all you want is a 22.99 is the worst feeling – doing well, but not as well as you hoped. That one-hundredth of a second means everything, and Ferrell’s favorite moment at BYU was just that.
“Last year at conference championships I saw a 22.70 on the board after finishing my 50 free,” she said. “I never thought I would see a 22 in my lane.”
After accomplishing a 22 in the 50 free, Ferrell believes that anything is possible and is putting her all into her senior season to accomplish her goals.
“I want us to win conference as a team again this year – that would put the icing on the cake,” said Ferrell. “I would also like to get best times in all of my events and get to NCAA championships either with my relay teams or in my individual events.”
After accomplishing her end-of-the-season goals for swimming, Ferrell plans to graduate in December, hopefully get a job and get married. She hopes to either work for her parents or for a firm. She would like to move back to California, but is willing to go anywhere. But most of all, she is excited to go wakeboarding.
“I am looking forward to wakeboarding now that there will be no fear of getting hurt,” said Ferrell. “It will be fun to go out and do some more extreme sports and to get my snowboard on.”
“Kirsty is a tremendously hard-working girl,” said Nancy. “She sets a very high standard academically and in her swimming. I have no doubt she will go out and continue to accomplish whatever she puts her mind to.”