KST Cover

Drew Ledwith Dives Right In

This freshman swim sensation, nephew of an All-New England KSC swimmer, set six school records in his first four meets. That's just for starters.

by Stuart Kaufman

Photo by Jesse Ferreira Over semester break, freshman Drew Ledwith of Keene saw his aunt, Nancy Ledwith. Nancy is a former All-New England and record-setting member of the Keene State women's swim team, while Drew, a freshman from Keene, is just beginning his Owl swimming career.

"My aunt told me how proud she is of me and said she would come see me swim at a meet in January," Drew said. Aunt Nancy kept her word, showing up for the team's dual meet against Bentley University. "Drew was fantastic," said Nancy. "He didn't swim his usual events and still won."

Drew Ledwith has had an auspicious start to his KSC swim career. In his first four meets competing for the Owls, the freshman phenom not only set six school marks (500, 1,000, 1,650 free, 200 fly, 400 I.M., and 800 free relay), but also became the first Keene State swimmer to post an automatic NCAA championship qualifying time (15:39.59) with his performance in the 1,650 at the ECAC championships.

"Coach Fabian wanted me to make sure I made the NCAA cuts early, so we wouldn't have worry about it at the New England championships," said Ledwith.

In early February, Ledwith held the top time among Division III swimmers in the 1,000 freestyle (9:19.42). "I'm going to try to lower my times at the New England meet, but I'm really focusing on the nationals," he said.

Ledwith's emergence caught even Keene State Coach Jack Fabian by surprise. "He's the real deal," said Fabian, who has watched Ledwith for years. "But this kid couldn't even make New England age-group meets when I started watching him. Now he's making senior national cuts and could eventually become a national champion."

"My goals used to be age group – now they're to make the Olympic trials."

Ledwith says the turning point in his swimming career came when, at the age of 14, he left the Keene YMCA Dolphins and joined the local Greenwood Memorial swim club. "That's when I started to get serious about swimming and dropped a lot of time," said Ledwith.

It didn't hurt that Ledwith, who doubled his practices and yardage, was also highly self-motivated. "I like to compete and I like to win," said Ledwith. Named MVP of his high school teams, he won the state championship in the 500 freestyle as a junior. At the club level, he made his first age-group cut last year, winning the 800 and 1,500 and qualifying for the zone championships. A drop in times brought a rise in expectations. "My goals used to be age group – now they're to make the Olympic trials," Ledwith said.

Joining the Keene State team this fall has only raised the level for Ledwith. "Being around faster swimmers makes you want to go faster," said Ledwith, who set the school record in the 500 in his very first college meet. He has thrived under Fabian's no-nonsense approach to training.

Fabian calls Ledwith a real athlete and student of the sport. "This summer I was talking to him about the Pan-Pacific swimming championships in California," said Fabian. "He not only watched every single race, but also knew every single swimmer. That's the type of kid who's going to do really well in the sport."

Nancy Ledwith's 800 freestyle relay mark came off the Owl record board a few years ago. However, when she arrived at the Spaulding Gym pool to see her nephew swim, she saw the name Ledwith featured prominently among the list of KSC record-holders on the far wall of the facility.

Drew Ledwith isn't satisfied with six records. "I want to get my name up there as many times as I can," he said.

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