Longtime Friends Go For Beijing Berths

By Emily Sampl

BOULDER, Colorado, July 14. KEVIN Hensley, Josh Laban and Kieran Locke have been best buddies since they were little kids, and have swum with each other nearly as long. This summer, they have the chance to do something most swimmers can only dream about: swim together in the Olympic Games.

All three are attempting to qualify for the U.S. Virgin Islands Olympic Team, and must do so by July 15 to go to Beijing. Meeting the FINA Olympic B standard would guarantee a spot on the team, but if none of them qualify that way then the swimmer closest to their cut percentage-wise will go. Hensley's best shot is in the 100 breast; his best time is 1:04.67, and the B cut is 1:03.72. Locke's time of 1:53.99 in the 200 free is just off the B standard of 1:52.53. Laban has already swam a time under the B cut in the 50 free, sneaking in under the qualifying mark of 23.13 with a 23.12 a few weeks ago; however, he must make the cut at a designated qualifying meet in order to go.

"It is really amazing that we are all still swimming now and have come so far since we were so little and are on the edge of making our dreams of swimming in the Olympics come true," Locke said. "It would be amazing if we all could make it."

Locke was born in Danbury, Ct., but moved to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands when he was three. He met Kevin, who was born in St. Croix, and Josh shortly after when he joined the St. Croix Dolphins swim team. The three boys quickly developed a strong friendship as they pushed each other to improve. After high school, they all went different directions, but have stayed closer than ever. Kieran attended Yale University from 2002-2006 and swam at Pine Crest in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., over the summers, and is now a graduate student at the University of Bath in England; Kevin enrolled at the University of Tampa and swam there for two years before transferring to the University of Georgia. Josh was recently married.

"We have kept in touch throughout college and even now that Kieran is in Europe, we still talk frequently. I have been to Yale a few times to visit him and he has come to see me at Georgia a few times. We always have a great time together and continue to be best friends," Hensley said.

Should swimming at the Olympic Games become a reality, it wouldn't be the first international meet the three have swum together at. All three of them competed at last year's Pan American Games, and they've also represented the U.S. Virgin Islands at several World Championships and World University Games. Kevin Tyrrell, the head coach of the U.S. Virgin Islands Olympic Team, has coached all three of the boys throughout their swimming careers, and knows that a trip to Beijing would be pretty special.

"These guys have known each other since they started swimming. They've all been working with each other to get their B cuts, and I think they're all happy for each other when they do well," he said. "This is kind of it for these guys."

Kevin, Josh and Kieran might be alone when they go for their final attempts at qualifying, but you can bet they're swimming for each other.