Born Leader

Nov. 27, 2001

By Joe Bayard

'Its great to be able to swim at the University of Washington, and compete in the Pac-10,' says Husky men's swimmer Luke Ekhoff.

A key returnee this season for the men's team, Ekhoff was a 2001 Pac-10 finalist in the breaststroke, helping the men's squad break into the national top-25 rankings last season. With high goals and soaring confidence, this Oregon native takes no prisoners when it comes to swimming.

A graduate of Portland's Lincoln High School, Ekhoff was a standout in the breaststroke. Ekhoff, who won letters all four years of his Lincoln career, won back-to-back state titles in the 100-yard breaststroke as a junior and senior, setting a Class 4A state meet record of 57.03 in the event in the process. Ekhoff was also a four-time league champion in the 200-yard individual medley.

His accomplishments and hard work paid off, as he was named team MVP four times, as well as his school's outstanding athlete twice. Ekhoff was so successful, he also competed in the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials for the Multnomah Athletic Club in the 100 and 200 breaststroke.

Ekhoff put his high-school success behind him when he joined the Husky team, entering the hyper-competitive world of Pac-10 swimming. Ekhoff knew that with the superior talent all around him, he'd have to work hard to stand out.

'Not so much to prove to my self,' he says, 'but to prove to the coaches, and my teammates that I could compete at this level.'

Ekhoff has earned the right to be confident. As a true freshman in 2000-01, Ekhoff, along with teammate Francis Tam, gave opponents a double-dose of trouble in the breaststroke events.

'Going into my first year of competing at this level I definitely set some goals for myself,' he says.

If there were ever any doubts in the coaches minds about his ability to attain his lofty goals, they were soon shattered by Ekhoff's hard work and determination. As a freshman, Ekhoff swam the Huskies' top time in the 200-yard breaststroke, and second-fastest in the 100-yard breaststroke and 200-yard individual medley. Ekhoff's efforts and ability, earned him the nickname 'Born Leader' from his coaches.

Prior to the Pac-10 meet, Ekhoff went undefeated in nine-consecutive 200-yard breaststroke races and finished no worse than third in all of his 100-yard races.

'You have to stay focused during the season and keep your mind on what you're trying to achieve,' he says.

Ekhoff may not have accomplished every goal he set out for, but that's okay - he was just a freshman, after all, there's plenty of time left.

'Setting goals for my self was key to some of the success my first year,' he says. 'Not all of my goals were completed, but you continue to strive for them.'

With the 2001-02 season off and running, Ekhoff is more confident and determined than ever to accomplish those goals he left behind in 2000-01.

'The NCAA top-eight, definitely,' says Ekhoff of his primary motivation this season.

Frightening for his opponents, Ekhoff says he feels even stronger this season, and proved himself correct with an 11th-place finish in the 200-yard breaststroke at the Phillips 66 Senior National meet this past summer.

'Competing this summer was a lot of fun,' he says. 'It kept me in shape and made me stronger.'

Ekhoff has been swimming since he was 10 years old, competitively since he was 13.

'It's just a great sensation - swimming, to be part of a team,' he says. 'That's one of the big differences between high school and college. In high school it's all about your individual success, in college it's all about the team's success.'

Spoken like a 'Born Leader' indeed.

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