When Crickett Grissom relocated from San Jose to Porterville 12 years ago, her real estate agent unknowingly helped launch the career of the latest Central Section boys swimming sensation.
While closing the deal on a home, Rick Conway suggested that Grissom put her then 4-year-old son, Kyle, in the city's summer recreation swimming league.
Since then, Porterville High's Grissom has moved from rec to club and blossomed into a double section champion.
"It turned out to be a lot of fun," Grissom said.
The 5-foot-11, 155-pound junior swam the fastest time in section history while beating the previous record holder in the 100 butterfly and proved to be the fastest sprinter around by capturing the 50 free during the Division I Swimming and Diving Championships on May 17 at the Clovis West Aquatics Complex. Grissom is The Bee's Boys Swimmer of the Year.
"I worked hard for it," Grissom said. "I'm pretty happy with my performance."
Grissom's ascension to the top of the medal stand, however, didn't come without a little controversy in the marquee race of the boys meet.
In a 100 fly showdown against Clovis West's Justin Wright, who had beaten Grissom in the event last season in a section-record 48.83 seconds, Grissom touched the wall first in an All-American 48.80, tied for the 27th fastest time by a high school swimmer in the nation this season.
Wright, last season's Bee Boys Swimmer of the Year and a University of Arizona recruit, finished second in 49.18, the 43rd best time nationally.
"Before the race I was real nervous. I knew I'd have to swim a lifetime best to beat Justin," said Grissom, who did just that in topping his previous fast time of 49.20. "I didn't think the record would go down this year. I just wanted to race Justin and try to win."
But before Grissom could celebrate, he was disqualified for exceeding the 15-meter mark with his underwater kicks on his dive to start the race. A nearly hour-long appeal and review process ensued before the ruling was overturned because the official who made the call was deemed out of position.
"I was shocked. I've never gone over 15 meters before. I always pop up," Grissom said. "I never thought (getting disqualified) was even a possibility. Getting disqualified took away the excitement, but when it got overturned, I was just relieved."
It was no contest for Grissom in the 50 free, as he was the only swimmer to go below 21 seconds, finishing in a consideration All-American 20.97 that just missed being among the top 100 times in the nation.
He was also on the Panthers' 11th-place 200 medley relay (1:46.35) and 14th-place 400 free relay (3:27.15) teams.
"Kyle's starts are amazing," Porterville coach Lance Hyder said. "At the Division I level, no one was close to him off the blocks and into the water, didn't matter whether it was fly or freestyle.
"It was pretty exciting. You just know all the stuff he put into it. Those kids on top of those blocks at Division I work really hard to get there. It doesn't come cheap."
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