By Josh Cook, Courier-Journal.com
Keefer Barnum is the hype man for the St. Xavier High School swimming and diving team, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering his lineage.
The senior is the two-time reigning state champion in the 100-yard breaststroke - last year he set a state record (54.69 seconds) in that event - and next month he’ll try to lead the Tigers to their 29th straight state title and 53rd overall.
Q: When did you start swimming competitively?
A: I started my competitive swimming career at Big Spring Country Club and stayed there until I was 7. At 7 years old I started swimming for Lakeside (Swim Club). That’s when it all started. Eventually I just fell in love with it.
Q: What was it about swimming that you fell in love with?
A: A lot of people don’t really think of swimming as a team sport, but really it is. I really enjoy all of my teammates right now and my past teammates I’ve had, because I definitely wouldn’t be here today without them, I know that for a fact. Swimming by yourself, training by yourself, is not an easy task. Really that, and I’ve always loved the sport, I’ve always loved racing. Winning a race, or even if you don’t win, just going out there and giving it your all is always great. The whole process of training for something and seeing what you’re capable of doing is an amazing thing.
Q: Why the breaststroke?
A: I think my breaststroke has always been just a little bit stronger than the other (strokes) from the very beginning. ... I think it was an 8-and-under 25-yard breaststroke (race) I had the outside smoke from Lane 8 and won it when I was 7. From then on, that was just kind of my stroke. Breaststroke is the best stroke.
Q: The team is going for its 29th straight state title, which would tie the national record. Can you do it?
A: I’m fully confident that we can do it. It’s an exciting time to be part of the program, it’s real exciting. But like I’ve said before, it’s going to depend on how well we group together as a team because a lot of us train at Lakeside, or Triton, or Cardinal, or wherever, but I think we all, once we get to the regionals and state, we all can come together and represent our high school.
Q: You’ve committed to Virginia. Why UVA?
A: I took official visits to five different schools (Georgia, North Carolina, Michigan and Southern Cal were the others) and Virginia, to me, was the perfect balance and the perfect fit for me between academics - it’s an amazing school - and the athletic program. I love the coaches and the team. It’s very important because I’m going to be with them every day. The campus life and everything about it, I saw myself there.
Q: Out of the pool you are into music. What instruments do you play?
A: I play the guitar and drums, (and) a little bit of piano. I think, for me, music is a good break between school and swimming because a lot of times that can be really repetitive. I think it’s just a good way for me to relate to people and for me to express my creativity. It’s a good medium and language for ideas and it’s something that everyone can understand. You don’t really have to take a class to understand, or feel, music.
Q: What type of music do you listen to before races?
A: I listen to some pretty heavy rock, some metal sometimes (and) some rap, music that brings you energy. Anything that will get you hyped up, that’s a good thing. Before my (finals) race at last year’s high school State (meet), I listened to a band called Royal Blood. They are awesome. It’s one bassist and one drummer and they just kill it. They are fun to listen to.
Q: Finally we can’t let you go without asking, are you related to the famous circus owner P.T. Barnum?
A: I actually am, I believe very distantly. I wouldn’t be able to tell you the exact connection, (but) I think (my) great, great, great, great, great uncle, or something, was P.T. Barnum.