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A great first step

Consistency the key for KU freshman Bradie Ward, who's looking for a strong finish to Year 1 with the Jayhawks

3 min read
KU freshman Bradie Ward swims in a home dual against Arkansas in January. [Chance Parker photo]

Bradie Ward has only been a KU swimmer for one season, but she’s already started her collection of gold medals. She’s a key component of the 200-yard medley relay team and has been successful in the backstroke.

Ward is only a freshman at Kansas, but she’s been familiar with the program since she was young.

Ward attended KU camp as an 8-year-old and has had it in her mind to become a Jayhawk ever since. At the age of 12, Ward’s family moved up to Lawrence and she started competing and training year-round with Ad Astra Area Aquatics.

“I've been wanting to swim (at KU) since that age,” Ward told R1S1.

Now, she’s made her dream of becoming a Jayhawk a reality — and the KU coaching staff is grateful for that decision.

“We're really happy that she's a Jayhawk,” KU coach Clark Campbell told R1S1. “She's been super-consistent in her training and her approach this fall. We’re happy with how she's progressed.”

Ward picked up her first collegiate win in Nebraska back in November, with a victory in the 200-yard backstroke in 2:03.52. Shortly after that, she lowered her season’s best in the event to 2:00.22 at Missouri and she took third in the event at 2:07.51 in a January dual against Arkansas.

"I really want to get under 2 minutes in backstroke and just be helpful to the team,” she said of her goals the rest of the way.

Campbell has no doubt she’ll accomplish that sooner than she thinks.

“The 2-minute barrier is something that she's been knocking on the door for a while,” he said. “She's going to kick the door down in February and surpass her wildest dreams, with how fast she's going to go.”

“Bradie is a really important part of our team. Not only her role as an athlete and doing the best of her abilities in her events, but she’s also been a really good teammate and somebody that's positive and supportive to the rest of the team.” — KU coach Clark Campbell on freshman swimmer Bradie Ward

After closing out the pre-winter break season by helping the 200-yard medley relay team finish first in a time of 1:42.63 and snagging her own solo win in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 56.78, Ward competed at the 2023 Speedo Winter Junior Championships, swimming the 50-yard, 100-yard, and 200-yard backstroke.

Even though the backstroke is proving to be one of Ward’s strongest — and favorite — events, she’s also excelled in mid-distance freestyle events.

Ward helped her high school team, Free State, secure back-to-back state championships with a first-place win in every event she competed in. Ward won gold in the 200-yard medley relay, 200-yard freestyle, 500-yard freestyle, and the 400-yard freestyle relay.

Now, she’s aiding the Jayhawks, who are coming off of a 5th place finish at the 2023 Big 12 Conference Championships.

“Bradie is a really important part of our team,” Campbell stressed. “Not only her role as an athlete and doing the best of her abilities in her events, but she’s also been a really good teammate and somebody that's positive and supportive to the rest of the team.”

KU will to Iowa State this weekend for a two-day event before beginning preparations for the Big 12 Championships, Feb. 27 through March 2 in Morangtown, West Virginia.

As she prepares to close out her freshman season with the Jayhawks, Ward moves forward with some important words of wisdom from Campbell in her head.

“I told her, ‘The key for you to get to where you want to be is to be really consistent,’’ Campbell said. “And Bradie has done a marvelous job buying into the consistency piece of it. She's done that admirably.”

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