HIGHLAND — Lone Peak senior Casey Kleinman claimed two class 4A state swimming titles as a sophomore.
Last year, however, surgery to remove a cyst and scar tissue from his right shoulder prevented him from swimming at state.
Now, despite a shoulder that's still less than 100 percent healthy, Kleinman's having posted the state's fastest 4A times this season in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke suggest he's on track to once again wreak havoc at the state meet.
"(The shoulder) is not completely better," said Kleinman. "I'm recovered from the surgery, but I still have inflammation and tendinitis I just have to learn how to deal with that, with icing and some anti-inflammatories and stuff like that, and stretching and warming up.
"It bothers me every day, but it's just a matter of getting it taken care of and just taking care of your body. I don't know if it's permanent — I think I'll have it forever, but I think it's just a matter of learning to take care of it."
For Kleinman, who has swum competitively for 13 years, the competitive and mental aspects of swimming are what keep him coming back to the pool day after day.
"(I swim) because I love it," said Kleinman. "I guess you could say I'm a bit addicted to swimming. The rush of racing, the rush of competing and winning. . . .
"With practices at five in the mornings, and then coming back at three o'clock right after school, there's a lot of mental toughness there. I think to keep swimming, you've got to have a passion for it because if you don't you're just going to fall behind. It's hard and it's tough.
"I love it. It's just something you can't explain — feeling the water, it's relaxing. Your're there by yourself, the water's around you, you're not hearing anybody, and you can just sit there and think. It's awesome."
Despite his affinity for the life aquatic, Kleinman acknowledges that that being an elite swimmer doesn't come without a price.
"Swimming pretty much takes up all your time," he said. "You really aren't able to swim full-time and do much else besides school; there's not a lot of energy for other physical activities."
Thanks to his muscular 6-foot-2 frame, backstroke is Kleinman's signature event. He'll swim the 100-yard backstroke at state, and then specialize in backstroke next year for BYU.
"I'm a more natural backstroker," said Kleinman. "It just comes to me a lot easier than all the other strokes. Backstroke's a really smooth stroke. I like it 'cause it's really smooth."
The decision to accept BYU's scholarship offer made sense for Kleinman: He's LDS; older sister Ashley is a freshman swimming butterfly for the Cougars; and Dee Loose, Kleinman's former coach at Lone Peak and current club coach, is an assistant coach at BYU.
Before becoming a Cougar, though, Kleinman has some business to settle at the state finals Feb. 4 and 5. In addition to the 100-yard backstroke, his other event will be either the 50- or 100-yard freestyle.
And at the end of the day, Kleinman wants people to know that behind the spotlight, victories and championships lives a pretty darned normal high school senior.
Said Kleinman: "The best part (of success) is probably (that) there's a lot of little kids that look up to me, and I think that's really cool. Also, I can't deny that winning isn't fun.
"The worst part is, I don't like people coming up to me and saying, 'Oh, you're Casey Kleinman the swimmer.'
"I've got friends just like everybody else. I go to school, it's no big deal, I'm just a normal person.
"Swimming's not who I am, but it's what I love to do."