Senior John Kendrick (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
Texas native, John Kendrick made a choice at age five that would eventually take him to the top of the BYU swim team as well as the Mountain West Conference.
Before moving to Dallas permanently, Kendrick spent some of his younger years in Georgia where he started swimming in a summer league that his mom put him into.
“My mom actually got me started in that summer league because it was what all the kids did,” senior captain John Kendrick said. “I thought it was a lot of fun and when we moved back to Texas when I was eight, I began to swim year round. “
Taking his swimming serious at such a young age has led him to develop an outstanding work ethic over the years.
Focusing and working hard at one event for such a long time would usually make it hard for a swimmer to switch events, but not for Kendrick.
Having started in the backstroke as a five-year old, Kendrick continued to swim the event until high school when he found his true calling. Distance.
“I used to be good in backstroke, so that’s obviously what I swam,” Kendrick said. “When I started swimming in high school, I got serious about distance and followed it through.”
It didn’t take long for him to excel in distance swimming and decide that this was his niche that would advance him to collegiate swimming.
In high school, Kendrick was the state champion in the 500 free in 2004 and a three-time All-American. He was also district and regional male Swimmer of the Year in 2005.
“I remember my fist year in high school we were trying to win a regional meet before state,” Kendrick said. “The meet was against our rival high school. The event I was swimming was the 200 free. My coach and I had worked out a strategy and everything, but I was really nervous. Everybody was putting a lot of pressure on me because I was the new guy. I ended up winning and it was the best feeling ever. That was the first real pressure situation I had ever been in and I came out on top.”
It didn’t take long before scouts started to pick him out of the crowd as a great potential addition to their respective teams. Top colleges like TCU, Tennessee and SMU were among those vying for Kendrick’s attention. However, all Kendrick needed was one recruiting trip to BYU to know where he was really supposed be.
“I had other trips set up to visit other colleges, but BYU was first,” Kendrick said. “After that trip I knew that visiting the other colleges would just be a waste of time. Getting an offer from BYU was dream come true.”
Kendrick’s parents, Hal and Julie, both attended BYU and have raised their two kids, John and Tressie, to be Cougar fans as well.
“John has always loved swimming and we have always loved watching him,” John’s mother, Julie Kendrick said. “He not only sets a great example for our family, but for those around him.
When he was in high school, he never swam on Sundays. He had multiple coaches who tried to convince him to do it, but he never did. One coach in particular embarrassed him a little for not wanting to swim on Sundays. After an article was published in the newspaper about Mormons and refraining from sports on Sundays, that coach came up to John and apologized. John set the example for other swimmers and exposed other coaches to the church’s standards.”
Kendrick’s family is extremely supportive of his swimming at BYU. They attend the annual Toshiba Classic invite in Long Beach, California, as well as the double meet weekend in Provo. This year that weekend falls on Jan. 20 and 22 and features Air Force and Wyoming. His parents also go to the meet against TCU in Fort Worth, Texas.
“My parents are very supportive,” Kendrick said. “My mom really enjoys watching me swim and I love having them all there to cheer me on.”
This season they will have a lot to cheer for as Kendrick helps lead the team along with two other seniors, Christian Keil and Vytenis Slenys.
“Me and the older guys got together a few times before the season to start talking about how we wanted this year to go,” Kendrick said. “We knew that we wanted to do better than last year and that with the promise of returning swimmers and new recruits, it was definitely possible.
Our team has so much chemistry this year. We’re all such good friends and we know how to have a good time, but also push each other in practice to make each other better.”
Kendrick, along with the other returning swimmers have taken it upon themselves to really take the freshmen under their wing. With a lot of promising newcomers on the team, Kendrick and his fellow returners feel it is important to help the freshmen understand the relationship of the team.
“Last year, when Kendrick was first voted captain, he took the liberty of emailing the freshmen before practice started up,” distance coach John Brooks said. “ But it wasn’t for the reason you’d think. He emailed them and told them to start growing mustaches so the team would have them for pictures. He’s a fun guy who loves to have a good time with his teammates.”
This is no doubt the reason why he was elected team captain two years in a row. Junior captains are rare, but Kendrick was the perfect candidate.
“I don’ t have anything to do with the voting for captains,” head coach Tim Powers said. “I wasn’t surprised that he was voted captain last year along with this year. The team really looks up to him. He never fails to step up in meets and do really well. He leads as a competitor in the pool and trains really hard with a great work ethic. He’s constantly pushing the team to do better. These qualities were in him when he came his first year. He has a ‘can do’ mentality and a ‘count on me’ attitude, which we absolutely love.”
Along with Kendrick’s hard-working approach, he also has a side that is obvious to anyone that comes into contact with him.
“That kid always has a smile on his face,” coach Brooks said. “Early morning or afternoon, he always shows up to practice just excited to be there.”
“Our team is really close this year so we’re all good friends,” Kendrick said. “It makes practices and competitions really fun. We’re constantly joking and there’s always something new with us.”
One inside joke that stuck was the previously mentioned mustache. It goes further than just growing them, they must be named. Kendrick’s mustache, when grown in full, is appropriately titled “El Capitano”, meaning “The Captain”. Other men on the team have joined Kendrick in the annual growing and naming of the mustaches.
However, there is a slight problem with this. Newcomers to the team are often unable to grow mustaches. But, that didn’t stop Kendrick. Photoshop and online drawing utensils were used to superimpose a mustache on those who could not grow them. These humorous pictures are placed on the profile of each swimmer’s Facebook.
“I don’t really know how all this started,” Kendrick said. “It’s pretty funny though. Mark Spitz calls his mustache ‘The Admiral’ and after watching a Saturday Night Live skit about it, we just kind of got out of hand.”
The men’s team really looks up to Kendrick and the example he sets. Although he is very humble and claims that he just does what he can to help the team, it’s more than obvious that Kendrick is a stand out swimmer and friend.
With it being his senior year, and last chance to make his mark on BYU as well as the Mountain West Conference, Kendrick has a lot to accomplish.
“I’d really like to go to NCAA’s,” Kendrick said. “Not only do I want to get there, but I want to do well. I want to win.”
According to his coaches, that goal can easily become a reality. More than that, Coach Powers believes he should be aiming for the Olympics.
“As a senior I know he is concerned with NCAA’s,” Coach Powers said. “But I personally think he should also be focused on Olympic trials cut. He needs to qualify for the Olympic trials and it’s definitely within his reach.”
Balancing swimming and school is the toughest aspect for Kendrick this year as it is his last year to compete.
“My biggest struggle is focusing on school when swimming takes up all of my thoughts,” Kendrick said. “Time management is crucial. I’m in the water for four hours, training for another hour plus traveling and school work. Social balance is also tough, but our team’s bond is so close that it helps because we are all experiencing the same things.”
This kind of pressure is hard on anyone, but Kendrick has a special way dealing with game day anxiety.
“I eat oatmeal for breakfast every morning of a meet,” Kendrick said. “It’s a superstition that I think started when I came out to college. When I was younger, my mom made me oatmeal every weekday morning and weekends of meets. I loved it. When I came to college, I didn’t really eat oatmeal but I started to every morning of a meet because that’s what I was used to.”
“When John was younger, I wanted to give him something I knew would stick throughout all of his hard workouts,” Julie Kendrick said. “I knew that oatmeal would do the trick. I actually have a game day superstition of my own. Whenever I’m at a meet watching John, I yell “Go John!” right when it gets quiet when the swimmers are on the blocks.”
Although the oatmeal and loud cheers from his mom are helpful, Kendrick does more than that to perform at his very best. He makes sure that he goes through the same routine in his practices before a meet and in the warm-ups prior to competition. Judging by Kendrick’s numerous achievements, this routine must be the answer to success, along with the oatmeal of course.
Last season, Kendrick was ranked third in the conference overall for the 200 free (1:37.82) as well as fourth in the 500 free (4:26.88) and fifth in the 1650 free (15:31.17). He placed third in the 200 free (1:37.82), fourth in the 500 free (4:26.88) and fifth in the 1650 free (15:31.17) at the Mountain West Conference Championships. He also received the MWC Academic All-Conference award.
This year, Kendrick has high aspirations along with the rest of the team.
“Our team has a ton of goals this year,” Kendrick said. “Along with establishing a good work ethic and discipline, our overall goal is to win conference. It’s going to be tough, but I know we have the team to do it this year. We want to show the conference how good we really are.”
That is exactly what they are doing. Taking the title of MWC champs is attainable for the Cougars, but not without the assistance and contributions of senior captain John Kendrick.
Getting to know John Kendrick (Q&A):
Who is your celebrity crush? “Scarlett Johansson.”
Number one thing you want to do before you die: “Live in the wilderness by myself for a week.”
Blonde or Brunette: “No Preference.”
Favorite artist? “Kid Cudi.”
Celebrity look-a-like: “People have told me I look like Brad Pitt, but I don’t see it”.
Favorite NFL team: “The Dallas Cowboys.”
Favorite NBA team: “The Dallas Mavericks.”
Who would you consider to be a hero? “George Washington because of all that he did for our nation.”
What was your hardest class taken at BYU? “Trans-Atlantic Literature, for sure.”
Who is the first person you call after a meet? “My Mom. I’m definitely a Mama’s boy.”
One place in the world you would like to visit: “Barcelona. I’ve been to Madrid before, but Id really like to visit Barcelona.”
Favorite hobby outside of swimming: “Cycling up Provo Canyon.”