Kelly Walsh swimmer Jensen signs with BYU

2013-11-18T19:15:00Z 2014-07-15T20:23:05Z Kelly Walsh swimmer Jensen signs with BYUBy LEW FREEDMAN Star-Tribune staff writer Casper Star-Tribune Online

Levi Jensen walked into the principal’s office at Kelly Walsh high school Monday afternoon and it wasn’t because he was summoned for being a bad boy.

Instead, Jensen signed what were the first autographs of his life when he inked a National Letter of Intent (in duplicate) to attend NCAA Division I Brigham Young on a swimming scholarship.

There was no secret about his destination — the 17-year-old senior advertised it by wearing a BYU T-shirt he picked up on his official visit to Provo, Utah.

With two quick scrawls of his name Jensen, who is looking forward to a final high school season for the Trojans starting in early December, committed to the school. Flanked by his parents, Clark and LaRene, Jensen seemed

surprised the process was so quick

and easy.

“Is that it? What’s today’s date?” he asked because he was also obligated to note that on the forms.

For a swimmer with grand ambitions — to compete in the 2016 and 2020 U.S. Olympic trials — Jensen said it took a while before he even envisioned being able to compete at the top level in college.

“I never thought of myself as a Division I swimmer till now,” he said.

Jensen began swimming for the Casper Swim Club by age six and he has two brothers and one sister who were competitive swimmers. He tried other sports, but after breaking an ankle playing eighth-grade football decided the pool was safer than the gridiron.

Freshman year he surprised himself by qualifying for more than one state championship cutoff time and he has improved steadily since. In the 2013 state championships Jensen won the 100-yard breaststroke, finished second in the 100 butterfly and helped the Trojans place second in the 200 medley relay and third in the 200 freestyle relay.

“My favorite event is the fly,” Jensen said. “But my fastest event is the 100 breast.” His time of 57.64 earned him national notice.

As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints — the Mormon church — Jensen found BYU, which is operated by the church, to be a natural fit. The combination of Jensen’s fast times and his religious affiliation also put him on Cougar coach John Brooks’ radar screen.

“He contacted us,” said Brooks, “but we were aware of him. Obviously, with him being an LDS kid we were interested. He’s got some talent. His breaststroke is his fastest time, but he’s very diverse. He’s young and he’s going to grow. Swimmers come in as little boys and leave as men. We’re excited to have him.”

Jensen said the religious nature of the school was a big factor in his choice because he plans to spend two years swimming and then take two years off for a mission — to wherever the church sends him. BYU has a long history with athletes whose sports careers are split in such a manner and Jensen said he talked to other swimmers who had taken a two-year break.

“They specialize in that,” Jensen said. “(Swimmers) come back from their

mission, and get back into it. They (BYU coaches)

said they would save my scholarship.”

Before Jensen departs for Utah, however, Kelly Walsh coach Bridger Miller has him for one more season and he believes Jensen can lift the Trojans to a state title.

“This year we’re the favorite and he’s a huge part of that,” Miller said. “Levi is one of those swimmers who has a lot of talent, but he works at it, too. He’s still finding what his best event is. Levi is an athlete and a kid who knows what it takes.”

Reach sports editor Lew Freedman at 307-266-0573. or lew.freedman@trib.com

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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