At 6-foot-2-inches with flowing blond hair, it’s difficult not to notice Cedar High School swimmer Kristen Gross. But what will really grab your attention is her energy and fun personality, someone you can’t help but like.
Classmates are apt to remember Gross years from now — someone who embodied what it is like to live and breathe every moment of the high school experience and make it the most that it can be. Her favorite quote, after all, is YOLO — you only live once.
“That’s really how I take everything. You have to experience what you are experiencing at that moment. … (With that,) I really take pride in how much school spirit I have,” says Gross, a senior. “Leading the cheers is the best part of being team captain. … Being a Redman is important to me. It has been a really awesome opportunity.”
While she succeeds inside the classroom as a 4.0 student and member of National Honor Society, what is equally impressive is her performance in the pool.
Gross started the 2016-17 season with a bang, earning the senior female high point award at the Greg Fernley Memorial Swim Meet held at the Sand Hollow Aquatic Center November 4-5. With over 900 swimmers participating, Gross finished first in her individual events, the 50- and 100-free sprints and also nabbed team victories in the 200 medley and the 200 free relays.
During the 2015-16 season Gross was part of the first-place 200 free relay at the 3A State swimming championships in Provo. She also seized second in the 50 free, third in the 100 free and her 200 free relay team finished second.
Kristen isn’t the only family member on the team finding success. Her sister, Katelyn, a junior at Cedar High School, found success at the state meet as well, winning the 200 IM and 100 fly.
But swimming wasn’t always the focus for the Gross family. In fact, Kristen has only been swimming for about six years. The family moved from Saint George to Cedar City and found that the dance scene, a sport Kristen had actively competed in, was different. There are fewer studios and the level of competition that Kristen was used to didn’t exist.
“I got both of the girls on the club swim team instead,” said Michele Gross, Kristen and Katelyn’s mom. “The girls just started excelling. It fits the personality of our family pretty easily. It’s a lot of individual effort.”
And the individual effort is one of the things that Kristen enjoys the most. She says she likes how she is able to measure her progress. “You can push yourself and you can see the rewards of your hard work.”
Another benefit of swimming is there are fewer injuries compared to other sports, due to the low impact that swimming puts on one’s body. A lot of times an athlete can push through something that might be a setback in another sport. Kristen has found that helpful as she has battled knee problems, but they haven’t affected her swimming. “You have to keep pushing forward,” she says.
Kristen says Southern Utah Swimming Association coach Blair Bentley has pushed her and had an influence on her swimming. She says that she is the swimmer she is today because of his guidance. “She doesn’t do anything lightly, and that includes swim,” said Bentley when talking about how Kristen has been able to balance academics and extracurricular activities. “Grades have always been important, as they should be. She’s really done pretty well with it. She hasn’t let anything hold back her performance.”
But in true Kristen style, the dedication she has for the sport she loves comes with a bit of fun as well. Take for example, her favorite pre-meet ritual. “I have McDonald’s the Thursday before a swim meet. It seems random, but it’s my good luck charm,” she says.
Although she hasn’t nailed down specific post-high school academic aspirations, Kristen says that it will probably be something to do with art, possibly graphic design. “Basically anything I can do with my hands I’ll try to do it.”
“Being a RedmAn is important to me. It has been a really awesome opportunity.”
Kristen is Student Body Historian at CHS and is involved in various forms of art from sculpture to ceramics and making videos for the school.
Where she will continue her studies isn’t certain right now, but it could be possible for Kristen to go from being a proud Lady Red to a Ute. She recently went on a recruiting trip to Utah and enjoyed the experience.
“They have a really nice program and all of their athletes are nice,” she says. “They have a lot of opportunities up there. … Right now my (swimming) aspirations are focused on the collegiate level, (but) I’m always shooting for the stars.”
Bentley is sure that if Kristen wants to swim collegiately that she will be able to. “My goal as a coach is if she wants that option it will be there,” he said. “If she plans to go on to collegiate swimming I think she will do very well. She’s got the times.”
While her post-high school plans aren’t nailed down just yet, anything is possible. After all, YOLO. • HSSI