John Kaiser knows he’s leaving Century as an incredibly decorated swimmer. He won four straight district titles. He’s a team state champion. He holds a slew of team records. We could go on and on here.

Still, thanks to a rash of injuries and a set circumstances out of his control, he remembers a time when his dream — to swim collegiately — seemed farther away than Jupiter.

“It was a huge question for a long time,” Kaiser said.

That’s because last March, he underwent surgery to repair a shoulder injury, sidelining him for roughly four months. That capped a season that went sideways because of COVID, forcing Century into just three meets all season, one of which was the district meet that — using times alone — acted as the state meet. The operation kept him out of his club swim team, and because the high school season isn’t exactly year-round, he couldn’t swim at all around that time. Would the last sibling in the Kaiser family find a college home to swim?

The answer became yes because when Kaiser returned last fall, he became the Kaiser everyone recognized. At the state swim meet, he finished third in the 100 breaststroke and fourth in the 100 freestyle, helping the Diamondbacks complete a fifth-place team finish.

Six months later, officials had to quiet down the crowd that gathered Friday afternoon in the high school gym, where Kaiser signed his letter of intent to swim at Division I Mount St. Mary’s, the last step in his goal all along. It’s official: the youngest Kaiser is a college swimmer.

“It really means a lot,” Kaiser said. “A big portion of my life has been dedicated to this…. There’s been a lot of times recently that I was doubtful that I would make it to this point, even though it was a big dream of mine growing up. Now that I’m here and it’s real, I’m just really happy that all my hard work has paid off.”

If you aren’t familiar with the Kaiser name, here’s a refresher: Anna, who swam collegiately at Western Colorado, kicked off the dozen-year streak by swimming as a freshman back in 2010. Then, Steven joined the team in 2012 and kept things going until he graduated in 2016. Joe, who now swims at John Carroll University in Ohio, made state during his tenure, which ended in 2018. That leaves John. Unless they have a sibling they don’t know about, the streak has now ended.

“This is exciting,” Steven said. “It’s not too (bittersweet). I think he’ll have a great time in college.”

“John’s definitely the best swimmer out of all of us,” Anna added. “The most naturally talented. He’s been doing it really consistently for a long time.”

John’s experience, though, differed from his siblings’. For years, swimming was only a club sport in Idaho, which is how Anna and Steven competed. Then, the IHSAA finally sanctioned the sport in 2017 — which boosted funding and lent credibility to what was long seen as a niche sport. Still, in some senses it stayed that way, because numbers remained low enough to force Pocatello, Highland and Century to combine into one team.

Then, finally, the sport took off in popularity. When the three-team conglomerate reached 88 swimmers in 2020, the school district separated it into three school teams.

Translation: John is the only Kaiser to swim for Century and Century only.

“Being the youngest gave me a lot of things to look forward to. If I didn’t have anyone before me, I’d just kind of be going and not really knowing where I was going,” John said last fall. “Having them lead the way helped me to see where all this time I had been putting into the sport could lead me.”

Now Kaiser has pledged to arrive at that destination: Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Maryland. It means the end of a long family tradition, but for the youngest sibling, it’s the very beginning of a new adventure.

“It’s something I’ve always loved,” Kaiser said. “I’m really happy that through all the hardships, it’s prevailed and I’m able to do it.”

Greg Woods is a sports reporter at the Idaho State Journal. Follow him on Twitter at GregWWoods.

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