CINCINNATI — Grant House flourished on a world stage last summer.
But, before this high school swimming season began, the St. Xavier junior received an additional dose of inspiration.
House won a gold medal in Singapore last August in the FINA World Junior Swimming Championships. His 800-meter freestyle relay team set a new junior world record.
It was a surreal experience.
House, 17, formed friendships that will last a lifetime and to represent the United States in swimming had always been a dream. He received a great deal of support from family and friends following him back home.
When he returned to the area Sept. 1, House turned his attention to the reigning national champion St. Xavier team and preparing for another high school season. He also did some “inner searching” before the season started in November.
House, who lives in Maineville, started competitive swimming at 6 ½ years old and has trained year-around ever since.
There have been ups and downs. Nearly ever swimmer goes through some sort of love-hate relationship with the water at some point.
But, over the past 18 months, House has gained a wider appreciation for the sport. The confidence is evident when he speaks and the way he interacts with teammates.
A key point in his new perspective occurred in November when he listened to a podcast by former Olympian Aaron Peirsol. The words of wisdom resonated quickly.
“It was a ritual podcast,” House said. “I have definitely been changed by that one.”
House related to what Peirsol discussed about the mental and physical challenges involved with the sport.
The lesson learned — swimming isn’t everything.
“A win or a loss in a race doesn’t define who you are,” House said. “It shouldn’t define who you are. Realizing that has helped me just understand what the sport is about and embracing it for what it is.”
The 6-foot-6 House, a 10-time National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association All-American, has qualified in the 200 freestyle for the 2016 Olympic Trials this summer in Omaha.
House won state titles in the 100 and 200 freestyle races along with the 400 freestyle relay his freshman and sophomore seasons at St. X. He is the school record holder in the 200 individual medley (1:49.88).
House is a highly sought-after college recruit and is taking his time with a decision. More than a handful of college coaches have watched House in person this season.
In fact, his recruiting has also put a spotlight on some of his teammates. House is quick to credit the team. Everything is one step at a time for him, including the college recruiting process.
“He’s got some physical gifts that others don’t have,” St. X coach Tim Beerman said. “He’s got the size, he’s got the great hands – he’s got a great feel for the water. But, I would say secondary to that – it’s not just that he is just taller than everyone else. He’s really a student of the sport. He works at it. He works at it meticulously day after day, practice after practice.”
House is also mindful of his diet – paying close attention to keeping plant-based foods as a staple. He is considering studying economics and exercise science with a minor in nutrition.
St. Xavier Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach Ivan Fulton said he's never seen a student-athlete that is driven as much as House.
"Grant House is a special kid," Fulton said. "He is disciplined with his nutrition, workouts and school work. How he balances everything he does as a teenager is amazing. When other athletes tell me that they can't do something I typically bring Grant's name up and explain everything he does."
Depending on House's practice schedule, a typical day may include oatmeal and fruit for breakfast then a snack in the mid-morning. His lunch may consist of spinach and tomatoes, along with yogurt or fruit.
Before the afternoon practice, he will have a snack bar to fuel his body. He will drink a shake for recovery after practice. Dinner may include a rice-based food along with chicken and spinach.
“With my nutrition a big part is eating for overall wellness and not just for a quick fix or only for swimming, but as a whole,” House said.
Beerman said House is the whole package from an athletic and academic standpoint.
House is a solid student who is a pleasure to have in class at St. X, says his religion teacher Kyle Schreiner.
“The fun part about Grant is he is really easy to talk to,” Schreiner said. “…He has an intense focus on being the best he can be.”
As St. Xavier prepares for the Division I sectional meet at Keating Natatorium Friday night, House and his teammates are only focused on advancing to the district meet.
It would be easy to look ahead to the state meet in Canton Feb. 24-27, but that isn’t on the radar yet.
The AquaBombers captured their 53rd consecutive Greater Catholic League title earlier this month. The expectations are high at St. X, which has won seven consecutive state titles. But, the team would have it no other way each winter.
A competitive practice environment fits in well with a team that preaches getting better each day.
“The team is possibly one of the strongest we’ve ever had in the history of St. X,” House said. “And knowing that going into each practice you have to put everything aside. Put your schoolwork aside and put any thoughts behind and hop into the pool with the mentality that I am going to get better. I need to push myself and my teammates are going to push me as well.”