Mitchell Crossen tends to stand out among his peers — and not just for his incredible speed as the Rogers High School boys swimming team’s star sprinter.
Unlike many of the region’s elite, Crossen does not compete for a club team. In fact, he did not start swimming competitively until his freshman year.
Now in his final season with the Rams, he is the top-ranked Class 4A entrant in the 100-yard freestyle — 47.21 seconds — entering this weekend’s boys state swimming and diving championships at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way. He is also seeded fourth in the 50 freestyle (21.83).
“I was always told that I should start swimming because I had a natural stroke and feel for the water,” said Crossen, who grew up playing basketball and only swam in summer leagues at the YMCA. “It worked out really well.”
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That would be an understatement.
At the West Central District 3 championships, Crossen easily won the 50 and 100 freestyles despite battling pneumonia just days earlier.
“I’m getting better every day,” he said. “It takes a while to get over it — the lungs take about a month to heal — but I’m getting stronger.”
He initially planned to swim the 200 free at state, but getting sick curtailed his plans so he decided it would be easier to focus on the sprint events.
“It’s just worked out to be my best stroke — the one I have the best feel for,” he said.
Crossen, who learned to swim at age 6 in the Rogers pool, trains individually with a private coach and competes at USA Swimming meets across the state. He said he realizes this makes him unique.
“I know a lot of guys who started swimming in elementary school,” he said, “and I started in high school.”
Rogers coach Stefani Fersch said that Crossen’s work ethic makes him stand out.
“He’s probably the hardest worker I have ever met in my life,” she said. “He’s totally dedicated to being the best and to his team.
“You can’t ask for a better lead-by-example swimmer than him.”
Crossen admitted he didn’t get serious until he swam in the state final of the 100 freestyle as a sophomore. He finished eighth, and then placed sixth last year.
“It just took off,” he said of his junior season. “I started getting some really good times, and I knew I could get a lot better if I could keep my training up.”
Rogers co-captain Conor Collins said he has enjoyed watching his friend’s journey.
“He’s so dedicated to swimming, and it’s all natural,” he said. “Since his freshman year to today, it’s just amazing.”
Crossen, who has a 3.94 grade-point average and also plays water polo for Rogers, said he is looking at schools in Washington and California, and already has one offer from an NCAA Division I program.
But he said he isn’t even thinking about college yet. His whole focus is “making an impact” at his final state meet.
“I’m just being confident,” he said. “Not overconfident, but knowing I put in all this hard work and it’s going to come together.
“Stressing isn’t going to help me, so I just have to believe.”