Given a choice between being in water or on land, 4-year-old Blayke Pribnow would pick water every time.
“We always joke that his philosophy is to just add water,” said Blayke’s mother, Nalani Pribnow. “We joke that’s he’s our amphibian.”
On the outside, he might look shy, but when he’s swimming, Blayke is anything but.
Blayke is the youngest competitive swimmer in Washington state, and swims for the Mel Korum YMCA on South Hill, competing against kids twice his age both individually and in relays.
“He’s their best relay finisher,” said Pribnow. “He’s always the anchor, so he finishes the team, because he’s their strongest swimmer.”
We always joke that his philosophy is to just add water. We joke that’s he’s our amphibian.
Nalani Pribnow, Blayke’s mother
Blayke first started swimming at the Mel Korum YMCA a year ago — just for safety, Pribnow said.
“I wanted to make sure he was water safe,” she said. “That was our only purpose. He absolutely loved it. It was unexpected and we didn’t anticipate it would flourish into something like this. I don’t know where he gets it from.”
Pribnow swam in high school, but didn’t continue on into college. Her husband, Bryan, never swam competitively.
But even as a baby, Blayke loved being in the water.
“My husband and I can recall when we brought him home from the hospital and him smiling when we gave him baths,” said Pribnow, who lives in Graham with Blayke and her husband. “He’s been a water kid ever since.”
In his one year with Mel Korum, Blayke has accumulated three medals, two trophies and eight ribbons — awards he’s very proud of.
“He told me this morning, ‘I want as many medals as Michael Phelps,’” said Pribnow, 34.
Blayke swam and placed in the 2016 PKC Classic in August, where swimmers at YMCAs in Pierce and King counties can compete. Blayke swims the freestyle stroke and is working to perfect his breaststroke and butterfly stroke by building his upper body strength.
But Blayke’s favorite stroke is backstroke.
“(I) jump in and turn on my back in the water,” Blayke said, adding that he can go “really fast.”
(I) jump in and turn on my back in the water.
Blayke is tall for his age, said Pribnow, and his body type makes it seems like he was meant for swimming.
“(His coaches) are noticing the double-jointed capabilities in his arms,” Pribnow said. “They’re also seeing that his ankles move like flippers, like Michael Phelps. His anatomy is proving that he’s meant to do this.”
Blayke has team practice every Tuesday and Thursday at Mel Korum, but he can be found in the pool more than that — up to twice a day, working on his swimming.
“We’re at (Mel Korum YMCA) for morning practice and team practices at night,” Pribnow said. “We kinda live there.”
Blayke even celebrated Halloween in the pool.
“I went swimming in the pool with real pumpkins,” he said. “We tried to race them on their sides by rolling them.”
For the Pribnows, the Mel Korum branch has been like another home.
To see a child recognize something that they’re not only passionate about but also good at—that makes me feel so lucky. (Mom and dad) always tell him that the goal is to wake up every morning and do something that you love to do.
“We’ve been really happy with the YMCA,” Pribnow said. “(The staff) have been our family. The sense of community is beautiful.”
The coaches have also aided Blayke in his next steps.
“The next goal is to get him to two more PKC Classics and then go to (a) state (meet),” Pribnow said. “We’ve been so grateful for the coaches’ help along the way.”
Pribnow says she hopes that Blayke continues to swim in the future, but that no matter what they’ll support him.
“To see a child recognize something that they’re not only passionate about but also good at — that makes me feel so lucky,” she said. “(Mom and dad) always tell him that the goal is to wake up every morning and do something that you love to do.”