Standing a lithe 6-foot-5, Eden Prairie junior Griffin Back is clearly an athlete. Most who encounter him can see that. The part they get wrong, however, is his sport.
“People always think I play basketball because I’m tall,” Back said.
Back is one of the state’s top all-around swimmers. He prefers not to specialize in any single stroke, as reflected in his 2014 Class 2A state championship in the 200 individual medley.
“I like to think of myself as a well-rounded swimmer,” he said. “I like every single stroke.”
Staff writer Jim Paulsen talked with Back, who will swim in four events in this week’s Class 2A state meet: the 200 individual medley, the 100 breaststroke, the 200 freestyle relay and the 200 medley relay.
Q Is there any stroke you prefer over the others?
A Probably the breaststroke. The 100 breaststroke is my second favorite event.
Q The breaststroke is a lot different stroke than others. It’s got a different, kick, a different rhythm. Some even hate it. What do you like about it?
A I’ve always been good at it because it comes naturally to me. To me, it’s more of a finesse stroke. You can’t power your way through it.
Q How long have you been a swimmer?
A I started when I was 7. I loved the competitive [aspect] and I just stuck with it. For me, it was fun to look up and see myself dropping time. That motivated me to keep going faster.
Q You’re also a club swimmer. Which club do you swim for?
A Team Foxjet. It’s one of the better teams in the state, but we haven’t won a state title since I’ve been there.
Q Compare club swimming with high school swimming.
A They’re both equally important to me. High school swimming is more about the team and doing whatever is best for the team. Club is more about the individual.
Q Eden Prairie beat Minnetonka in the Section 6 meet Saturday. How important was that for the team?
A That was awesome. Our coach talked to us about that all year. Minnetonka is a really, really good team and they beat us a couple of times, but in our last dual meet with them, we won by just a few points. In sections, it wasn’t one or two guys, it was a lot of guys dropping a ton of time. It was special because it was a really great team win.
Q What is your best swimming memory?
A Probably winning the 200 IM last year. It’s always fun to swim against the best swimmers in the state and to try to win for your school.
Q What is the coolest thing that’s ever happened to you because of swimming?
A When I was younger, my sister and I would go to a swim camp in at the University of Texas in the summer. They would bring back all of their past swimmers and Olympians. That was really cool.
Q Anyone in particular who stands out to you?
A Brendan Hansen. He’s always been one of my favorite swimmers because he’s a breaststroker. He’s a three-time Olympian and a world record-holder. I’ve always been a big fan of his.
Q What is one thing you must do before every meet?
A Before the meet, I like to watch highlights of someone like Adrian Peterson to help me get pumped up. And I always have to drink a blue Gatorade. I’m superstitious about that.
Q Advice for getting into a cold pool?
A I don’t know. It’s something you I’ll never get used to.