For Olympic prospects Payton Sorenson and Brynn Sproul, swimming is more than just a sport — it’s a catalyst for bringing about enduring relationships.
The two swimmers, who will take part in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Trials in June, have found that the sport has brought both friends and family into their lives.
For Sproul, swimming has given her some of her closest friends.
“You’re going through a hard set together, so you go through similar experiences,” Sproul said. “The friendships you build end up being based on the experiences you go through together.”
Sproul and her coach, Yolanda Bates, talked about two important friendships that the freshman made with her teammates.
One of those close friendships Sproul made is with fellow freshman Josue Dominguez. Sproul said their friendship is based on their shared goal of competing at the highest levels of the sport.
“With him, we’re able to push each other because we know each other’s goals,” Sproul said. “We know that we both want to get to a certain level.”
Bates said the two are so close that Sproul, who competes in the backstroke, would often rather race against Dominguez than the other backstrokers.
“Sometimes I need (Dominguez) to race breaststroke against the other actual breaststrokers,” Bates said. “I’ll have to say, ‘I need you to race with your group,’ and (Sproul and Dominguez) will look at each other like, ‘It’s a training buddy kind of thing,’ and it’s funny.”
Sproul said that, while unconventional, racing against Dominguez has helped her improve her race times.
“A lot of people don’t understand why that would work, but it does for us,” Sproul said. “It’s because you’re not really worried about the end result as much as you are just racing.”
Another important friendship Sproul has made is with her recently-graduated former teammate, Cameron Lindsay. Bates said the two developed somewhat of a sibling relationship, with the two playing pranks on each other.
Sproul said her friendship with Lindsay reminded her that swimming is not just a sport — it’s fun too.
A game that the former swimmer and freshman would play involved hiding each other’s swimming gear around the BYU poolhouse. Bates said she’s found the two swimmers snooping around the pool after practice, trying to find the gear hidden by their teammate.
“Cameron teases her at all the time,” Bates said. “Sometimes they’re walking around looking around the booth because they can’t find one of their fins.”
Laughing, Sproul gave some of her own insight on the game.
“We ended up having to come up with some rules because it was getting a little out of hand,” Sproul said. “We narrowed it down to where you can only hide each other’s fins and pool buoys, but you can’t hide them when we need them in practice.”
Sproul said Lindsay would routinely throw one of her fins into the water and when she would go to find it, he’d be able to quickly hide the other one in seconds.
With Lindsay’s recent graduation and exit from the team, Sproul no longer sees her friend regularly. Despite this, Sproul said Lindsay recently dropped into practice just to hide her equipment again, much to her joy.
“We were swimming and then my fin was gone,” she said. “He had thrown it in the water and when I went and got it, the other fin was gone. It was a reminder that swimming can be fun and how much I miss him.”
Bates said Dominguez and Lindsay have helped the young swimmer open up and smoothly transition to collegiate life and swimming.
Sproul isn’t the only one to build an important relationship through swimming. In fact, it was through swimming that BYU senior Payton Sorenson reconnected with his childhood friend and now wife, Kylie.
Kylie and Payton grew up together in Mesa, Arizona. Because their mothers were close friends, both of their families often went on trips together. However, their families moved apart over time, and Payton and Kylie fell out of contact.
Kylie said while she always had a bit of a crush on Payton, she had never worked up the courage to go on a date with him. With both of them now attending BYU, she would run into him occasionally, but they hadn’t seen each other in years so they never talked much.
It all changed when Kylie was invited by her sister to attend a BYU swim and dive meet.
“My sister was going to watch a (meet),” Kylie said. “I was on a date with a guy, but she said that she didn’t want to go alone.”
However, when the group arrived at the meet, the event was almost completely over. As they made their way out of the venue, Kylie saw Payton.
“Then I saw Payton in the pool,” she said. “He was looking over all these people and I was looking at him, but I didn’t want to. I was on a date with someone, but now I’m staring, and I can’t stop staring.”
Kylie said she hurried out of the pool to avoid having to speak to the swimmer. Her date even teased her about Payton as they left.
It turned out that Payton did see her in attendance and, shortly afterward, sent her a Facebook message asking if that was her that he saw.
Kylie knew she had to find her courage quickly after her sister also ran into Payton at a barbershop a few days later. Kylie said her sister sent her an excited text saying she was with Payton and joked that she was going to take him for herself.
“I told her, ‘Payton Sorenson just messaged me and he’s mine’,” Kylie said.
Payton did end up Kylie’s, and the two married in August of 2018.
Payton said the support of his wife and daughter aren’t just any other support system — they’re the secret to his recent successes in the pool.
“They’ve given me a different level of energy that I haven’t had before,” the swimmer said. “I’ve gotten all my best times this year, having my family in my life. It’s been awesome.”
Payton, who just completed his final year of collegiate swimming, reflected on the close relationships that he’s formed through the sport.
“I’m getting a little emotional about it because it’s sad and I haven’t really taken time to think about it,” he said. “I don’t think I would have gotten as far as I have if it wasn’t for all the people that have been in my corner along the way. That gives me power.”