The Life Aquatic

USD swimmer Keenan Lineback


It’s a bright and breezy early spring afternoon by the pool at the USD Sports Center, and Torero swimming sensation Keenan Lineback looks for all the world like a fish out of water.

She’s attempting to settle into a poolside chair and discuss her accomplishments over the 2012-13 swim season, but is clearly struggling to get comfortable. She rocks from side to side and finally shimmies into an acceptable sitting position, but her gaze never leaves the placid waters just steps away.

“You’d think I’d be sick of it by now, with all the time I spend in it,” Lineback says with a wry smile. “It’s funny; sometimes I feel more comfortable in there than I do on land.”

It’s the same pool where the sophomore and reigning Female Torero Athlete of the Year has spent countless hours refining the strokes that propelled her to becoming the first Torero to win a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) conference title in five years. This past February at the MPSF championships in Los Angeles, she earned top honors in the 400 individual medley (IM) with a time of 4:17.42, and posted a personal and school-best 16:39.04 on her way to victory in the 1650 freestyle event.

From the sound of things, she owes her success to a simple strategy: steady as she goes. “My entire life, coaches have taught me to hit the same lap time, every time. I just try to be as efficient as I can with my stroke; going out too fast will kill you in distance events.”

Lineback’s love affair with all things aquatic began when she had her first swimming lesson near her home in Conway, S.C., at the age of 4. Just a few years later, she was competing in swim meets across the southeast, and would soon follow her older brother, Hunter, into the surf near their summer home in Myrtle Beach.

It didn’t take long for Lineback to catch the surfing bug, and by her teen years she had become one of the top amateur female surfers in the country. She is quick to credit surfing for helping her build the strength and stroke power necessary to compete at the highest levels of intercollegiate swimming.

“I think surfing has definitely helped my swimming, and vice versa,” she says. “Right now, I’m focused on the swimming side of things a bit more, as I have a lot of goals I’d like to reach while I’m here at USD, like qualifying for the NCAA Women’s Swimming Championships in the 400 IM.” — Mike Sauer